Tualatin rolls to an efficient 4-0 win over McMinnville

by: DAN BROOD - SLIDING IN -- Tualatin High School senior Tyler Baggenstos slides home safely behind McMinnville catcher Garret Adams during Tuesday's game. The Timberwolves scored a 4-0 victory. TUALATIN — They were quick.

They were efficient.

They were impressive.

And, when it was all over, they were one step closer to winning a conference championship.

The Tualatin Timberwolves moved to within one win of claiming the Pacific Conference baseball crown after they bested McMinnville 4-0 in the first game of a crucial three-game league series played Tuesday at Tualatin High School.

“It’s huge,” Tualatin junior catcher Jake Gellos said of the opportunity the Wolves have to win the league championship. “We’re looking to defend our title. We came into this series knowing it was the biggest series of the year.”

“Right at the beginning of the season, it was one of our absolute goals,” said Tualatin senior Connor Scott, who pitched a complete-game shutout in Tuesday’s victory.

“We’ve won six in a row,” Tualatin senior shortstop Jon Fishback said. “We definitely think we have the ability to do it again.”

With Tuesday’s win, Tualatin upped its league-leading record to 12-1 while also improving to 16-5 on the season. Second-place McMinnville fell to 9-4 in league games and to 13-9 on the season with the setback. If the Wolves were to win one of the two remaining games in the series, they’d claim sole possession of the league crown.

“That’s one of our goals,” Tualatin coach Adam Strachan said. “Our first goal was to get an automatic state playoff spot, and our second goal is to win the league title.”

The Wolves moved a step closer to their league-title aspirations in imposing fashion with their win on Tuesday. And that all started with Scott’s performance on the mound.

In seven shutout innings of work, Scott, working quick and in rhythm, gave up just two hits while striking out 11 and walking one.

“That’s the best I felt all year,” Scott said with a smile. “I thought I had command of all of my pitches and my arm felt as strong in the seventh inning as it did at the start of the game.’

“He looked very good,” Gellos said. “We had a little joke about how quick he was going through his warm-up pitches.”

The Timberwolf defense also looked to be up to the task. That started in the first inning, when Gellos picked McMinnville junior Gage Gubrud off first base, with Tualatin sophomore first baseman Jake Bennett making a heads-up tag.

“It was a back pick,” Gellos said. “I saw him leaning and made a throw.”

“I expect him to do that. I’m almost surprised when he doesn’t,” Scott said. “Jake is the best catcher in the state, in my opinion. He’s like a wall back there.”

“That set the tone for the game,” Strachan said.

Tualatin broke an early scoreless tie by scoring three runs in the bottom of the second inning. Scott drew a leadoff walk to get things started. Senior Tyler Baggenstos followed with a single to center field. Both runners then moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt by Bennett.

“That was huge,” Strachan said.

Junior Joey Fishback followed with a line-drive single to center field, driving in both Scott and Baggenstos to give the Wolves a 2-0 lead.

Jon Fishback then singled to center field and junior Brandon Shroyer drew a walk to load the bases with one out. Joey Fishback then scored on a sacrifice fly by senior Austin Marsh to up the margin to 3-0.

The Wolves got their other run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Gellos got things ignited with a one-out double to the fence in left-center field. Gellos moved to third base on a groundout by Scott and then scored on Baggenstos’ two-out double to right-center field.

That proved to be more than enough run support for Scott’s pitching and the Timberwolf defense.

“I don’t think the score indicated how well we played,” Jon Fishback said. “We’ve got a young defense in the infield, but everyone is playing well and we’re having a lot of fun out there.”

“Everyone was focused,” Scott said. ‘We were all locked in.”

Tualatin, as a team, had nine base hits, including five doubles.

Baggenstos went 2 for 3 at the plate with a double, a run scored and an RBI. Jon Fishback went 2 for 4 with a double and Joey Fishback went 2 for 4 with a run and two RBI. Shroyer, Gellos and Marsh each had a double.

“We played a real strong game,” Strachan said.

Prior to the win over McMinnville, Tualatin completed a three-game series sweep against Hillsboro. The Wolves scored a 12-2 win over the Spartans in a home contest on April 24 and they bested Hillsboro 11-2 in a game played Friday at Hare Field.

Tualatin had a chance to wrap up the league championship Wednesday when it faced McMinnville in a game played at Patton Middle School in McMinnville. Results of that game weren’t available when The Times went to press. The teams will finish their series Friday with a 5 p.m. game at Tualatin High School.

The Wolves will open a two-game league series with Newberg on Tuesday with a 5 p.m. game at Newberg High School.

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