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The upset kings were at it again.

The Hillsboro baseball team pulled off its third postseason upset and second stunner in a row on Wednesday, when it raced to an early lead against Westview and then made it hold up for a 5-4 victory at Ron Tonkin Field in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs.by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - HillHi's Chase Kaplan celebrates a score in the Spartans' 5-4 win on Wednesday.

“I told the staff beforehand, if we could jump out early and get these guys down, then Westview in our eyes would tighten up a little bit and maybe do some things different,” Hilhi coach Matt Bailie said. “The thing is, we just kept being aggressive with them, putting the pressure on them and having them execute. And they executed on some things, but we executed enough to get the win.”

Bailie was indeed prescient about that strategy, but his team still had to work for it. After taking leads of 4-0 and 5-1 during the contest, the Spartans had to sweat out a nerve-wracking bottom of the seventh, when the Wildcats notched back-to-back hits, scored one run to cut the score to 5-4 and brought the winning run to the plate with two outs.

But Nat Richman, who got the starting nod and went the distance on the pitcher’s mound, induced a groundout to second from Taiki Ishii to end the game, sending upstart Hilhi into celebration mode and on to its first state quarterfinal appearance since 1994, when the playoff bracket started with 16 teams.

“After last game, I knew it was possible,” said Chase Kaplan, who supplied a hit and scored the Spartans’ fourth and fifth runs. “Our motto is one game at a time. Nat came out, threw a heck of a game, and he proved that we can do it. We have something to prove. We got eliminated early last season, and so we’ve got something to prove. We’ve got a little chip on our shoulder right now.”

Westview, the Metro League co-champion and No. 13 seed, ended the year at 17-12. No. 29 Hilhi improved to 13-14 and moved on for a Friday game at Clackamas in the state quarterfinals.

The Spartans got to Wildcat starter Parker Kelly, a junior who has committed to Oregon, right from the get-go, putting up two runs in the first and another two in the third for a 4-0 lead. Damon Peters set the tone in the game’s first at-bat with a double and he scored two batters later on Austin Lutheran-Burt’s double to left-center.

Hilhi put its second run on the board when Brennyn Hobbs hit into a forceout at second, allowing Lutheran-Burt to come home for a 2-0 lead.

The Spartans doubled their advantage two innings later, when Lutheran-Burt led off with a single to right field. Kaplan then got his hit to drop behind Westview right fielder Keita Fabrega for a double, and Hobbs brought both runners home with a hard-hit double just barely fair along the third base line that snuck past Kenyon Yovan.

By the time the Wildcats came up to bat in the third, Hilhi had already put up seven hits on Kelly. Westview did pull a run back in the bottom of the inning on Yovan’s single to left-center that plated Nolan Minter.

Hilhi added its final run – which turned out to be the game-winner – on a cheeky bunt toward first base by Dylan Frederick that brought Kaplan home while Frederick slid safely into first.

That tally proved crucial, as the Wildcats did not go away, getting consecutive hits for RBIs from Yovan and Teagan Lind in the bottom half to tighten the score to 5-3.

But Richman, who kept much of the Westview lineup off-balance most of the way, held steady, giving up a single in the sixth while facing four batters.

He struck out only four all game but scattered seven hits – including just two through four innings – and did a good job of inducing ground balls and fly balls for his errorless defense to turn into outs. None of those was bigger than the final one, after which the Spartans mobbed one another near their dugout in celebration mode.

Afterward, Richman was thrilled to play a part in Hilhi’s advancement.

“I don’t even know how to express it,” the junior said about making the quarterfinals. “It is so, so, so exciting just to get this far in the playoffs, the farthest we’ve gone in a long time. It’s so great that I get to be on the team, I get to be part of this experience. It’s just wonderful.”

As for Kelly, after seeming a bit uneasy early, he settled in to strike out seven but also gave up 12 hits in seven innings.

Next up are the fifth-seeded Cavaliers (21-7) at 5 p.m. Friday. For the Spartans to advance to their first state semifinal since 1993 – a year in which they won it all – they will need to pull off a third consecutive major upset.

Clackamas posted an identical record (10-5) to West Linn and Lake Oswego atop the Three Rivers League. The Cavaliers feature the Three Rivers player of the year in center fielder Elliott Cary, an Oregon State recruit, and Taylor Stinson, the league co-pitcher of the year.

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