The Lakeridge baseball team was fighting for its life on Wednesday.
So was Oregon City.
In the end, it was the Pioneers who got what they wanted, dispatching the Pacers 5-2 in Wednesday's Class 6A Play-In game at Clackamas City High School.
Oregon City's DeQuahn Dennis-Lee threw a four-hitter with eight strikeouts, and also scored what proved to be the game-winning run in the third inning. Tyler Hartenstein added an RBI single and scored two runs.
"The last couple of years have been kind of magical," Pioneers coach J.J. Winkle said. "We went to the quarterfinals two years ago, we played in the state championship last year, and … anything can happen. Since we're here, we're going to play. We'll work our tails off and we're going to do whatever we can to win."
"I knew that we were going to come out strong," Dennis-Lee said. "I've been playing with these guys since seventh grade and I knew we didn't want it be done here. I knew this was not going to be our last game."
With the win, 26th-ranked Oregon City improved to 14-13 overall and advanced to Monday's first round of the 6A state playoffs against Greater Valley Conference-champion McMinnville (21-6). No. 36 Lakeridge, meanwhile, saw its season come to an end at 6-20.
"We just kind of booted the ball around a little bit and gave Oregon City extra outs," Lakeridge coach Marco Tavera said. "That's something we talked about all year, and it's just of those things where it never quite clicked in for us. It's all about taking care of the baseball, and we didn't do that very well."
Despite the final result, the Pacers were proud of their efforts in a losing cause.
"I give credit to our eight seniors who just kept coming every day and just kept grinding it out. It's not something that they wanted to do at times and it's hard when you're at that point, but they kept grinding every day for us and I thank them for that."
The Pioneers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Dennis-Lee led off with a single, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on a throwing error by Lakeridge's second baseman on a ball hit by Kyle Pollack.
In the third, Hartenstein and Dennis-Lee were each hit by pitches from Lakeridge starter Josh Robins. Robins then came off the mound to field Jordan Weijland's sacrifice bunt and threw wide of first base, allowing both runners to score and make it a 3-0 game.
On the mound, Dennis-Lee retired the first 11 batters he faced on four ground-outs, two fly-outs, and five strikeouts, then settled into a nice rhythm working out of the windup.
He lost his perfect game with two outs in the fourth inning when Tommy Andrew, the Pacers' No. 3 batter, hit a single on a sharp grounder into right field. Cal Seneker followed with a line drive single to center, and Everest Webster then drove a 3-2 curveball into the gap in right-center for a two-run double, cutting Oregon City's lead to 3-2.
"Just a great hit," Dennis-Lee said of Webster's double. "I can't do anything about that one."
Dennis-Lee got out of the fourth without any further damage and then faced just one batter over the minimum during the final three innings, retiring the final seven Lakeridge batters in order.
"DeQuahn's last five or six outings have been good," Winkle said. "He's been nothing but solid. He's pitching and playing at a different level this year. It's like he doesn't have a care in the world. Nothing bothers him. He's just a man on a mission and you can't rattle him."
Oregon City added to its lead in the fourth when Kam Shelley led off with a double — arguably the hardest ball hit off Robins in the game — and scored on Hartenstein's two-out, RBI-single.
Hartenstein then stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on another wild pitch to give the Pioneers a 5-2 lead.
"Coming into the season, we had high hopes," Tavera said. "We thought we were a better team than what we showed, but it was a disappointment. I think every time we step on the field, we expect to win, but it was one of those things where about the middle of the season, it turned over to where there got to be some real long days."