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Knights battle in wood bat tournament

Aloha goes to extra innings to knock off Reynolds in Legion play
by: JOHN KLICKER, WHIP IT — Aloha Knights pitcher Sean O’Connor delivers a pitch during his team’s 5-4 victory over Reynolds in Friday’s first round of the Centennial Wood Bat Tournament.

GRESHAM - The Aloha Knights had to earn their keep in Friday's opener of the Centennial Wood Bat Tournament, and had to earn it big-time in the ninth inning, but did just that to beat Reynolds 5-4 on Friday.

Reynolds had several chances to beat Aloha, but came up empty in the game's two extra innings and that was the difference.

Deadlocked at 4-4, the teams went to the international tiebreaker rule in extra innings, allowing each team to start with a baserunner at second base. Aloha relied on back-to-back bunts to break through in the ninth inning, with the game-winner provided by Sam Cope after the Knights bunted Zak Kokesh over to third. Cope dropped a well-placed chopper that forced Reynolds' reliever Trevor Winsor to leave his feet and gave Kokesh enough time to score the winning run from third base.

'The key is to get the ball down and to keep it away from the pitcher,' Cope said. 'That ball found the perfect spot.'

Reynolds tried to answer in the bottom of the inning, moving pinch-runner Zarr Swanson to third base on a bunt by Cody Cook. But the Raiders couldn't put the ball in play again, as Aloha reliever Matt Morrison struck out the last two batters.

Morrison's efforts in relief, by the way, were the story of the game for the Knights.

'Matt Morrison came in in the fifth and struck out 12 of the 15 batters he faced,' said Aloha coach Darren Bland. 'He's been working on his slider and he finally got it right.'

The Raiders kept Aloha scoreless in the eighth inning, highlighted when Swanson scooped up a grounder and threw to Zach Moore at third base to tag out the lead runner.

Reynolds was then on the verge of victory when it loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth, but another series of

strikeouts ended the threat.

'I was expecting one of our guys to put the ball in play, and that probably would have brought a run across,' Raiders' manager Kelly Larkin said. 'We just didn't make any kind of contact. We have to be more intense at the plate.'

Reynolds took a 4-1 lead midway through the game on a string of RBI hits by Swanson, Justin Nomie and Scott Worthington. But Aloha tied the game with a three-run spurt in the fifth inning.

The Warriors threatened to end the game in regulation with a leadoff single in the seventh inning. But Reynolds closed the door on back-to-back strikeouts by Winsor, followed by a catch in left field by Brent Holbrook.

*****

The Knights rode solid pitching on their way to winning the title at the AAA American Legion Centennial Wood Bat Tournament in Gresham.

The Knights (25-11 overall) beat the host Eagles 2-1 in the championship game Sunday with Jordan Neilsen pitching six shutout innings and Dylan Jones providing the difference with a solo home run.

Neilsen struck out seven batters and allowed just four hits before giving way to reliever Sean O'Connor, who picked up the save after getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning. With two outs, the Eagles hit a hard shot between first and second that Aloha second baseman Sam Cope ranged into right field to gather and threw to first to get the runner by a step to end the game.

Joe Dameo drove in Travis Holz to give the Warriors a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Dameo had two hits in the game. Jones made it 2-0 when he drove a ball over the fence in right-center field.

Aloha beat Barlow 6-2 on Saturday with Jones allowing just three hits in his complete game effort. The lefthander, who was All-Metro League first team in the spring, struck out nine.

The Warriors jumped out to a 5-0 lead before the Bruins got two runs in the fifth. Aloha added an insurance run in the sixth. Nick Ford had a pair of doubles for the Warriors, while Kokesh went 2-for-2 with two runs and two stolen bases.

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David Ball of the Gresham Outlook and Miles Vance and Bill Wilson of the Beaverton Valley Times contributed to this story.