West Linn is always one of the favorites to win the 12-and-under state baseball championship, but the odds are twice as good this year. That's because West Linn will be sending two teams to this year's tournament, which opens Friday in Dallas.
West Linn's 12A team should be one of the top seeds after posting a 23-8 record in some of the toughest youth tournaments in the Northwest. Also in the field will be West Linn's 12B team, which won the 12B state championship last weekend.
That qualified West Linn's second team for this weekend's 12A tournament, and 'They're capable of beating anybody in the tourney,' said Joe Monahan, West Linn's 12A coach.
Beating Monahan's squad might be the most difficult task. To prepare for this weekend, that team spent the better part of the last month playing in a string of tournaments in Washington. The Lions finished second in two of those tourneys, third in one and fourth in another. All four losses came against teams that would be good enough to win the Oregon state title.
West Linn took third at Kennewick's Connor Classic, which Monahan calls 'one of the most prestigious tournaments in the Northwest.' In that event, the Lions lost to a strong team from Richland in the semifinals, and then beat an equally tough Pendleton team in the third-place game.
Monahan's crew easily could have won last week's tournament in Hoquiam, Wash., but the Lions lost the championship game to a team they had beaten by 10 runs earlier in the tourney.
'It was one of those games where (the opponent) was in the right place every time,' Monahan said of his team's 2-0 loss.
'I think our boys are a little bit hungry after that,' the coach said.
The Lions will feature a balanced attack as they head into the state tourney. They have three hitters - Jordan Porter, Shane Monahan and Nick Hysell - with batting averages above or close to the .400 mark. Porter leads the team in homers with nine while Monahan leads in doubles with nine. Ben Trussell has the team's best on-base percentage with a .529 mark.
West Linn also will have three of the best pitchers in the tournament in Zach Shuholm, Riley Wilkerson and James Coghill. In addition, Taylor Flores, Matt Kim, Sean Byrne, Gunnar Wolfe and Brett Wilkerson anchor a strong defense.
Coach Monahan likes his team's chances for winning the state title.
'The kids are good enough and they've certainly worked hard enough,' he said. 'We just have to come out and play a complete game.'
West Linn's first game of the tournament will be Friday at 3:30 p.m. against Sandy, the team West Linn beat for the state title last year. The Lions will then play Dallas at 8 p.m. The team's final pool game will be played at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday against Central Monmouth. Single-elimination play will then begin at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. The tournament semifinals will be held on Sunday at 11 a.m. and the championship game will be played that day at 2 p.m.
Directions to the tournament can be found on the West Linn team's Web site, which is located at www.leaguelineup.com/12A.