Bennett helps lead Tualatin to a 9-2 quarterfinal win

by: DAN BROOD - JUMPING FOR JOY -- Tualatin outfielders (from left) Chase Anderson, Cooper Brunner and Brandon Shroyer celebrate following the Timberwolves' state playoff quarterfinal victory over McMinnville. TUALATIN — Smiles.

They were big, they were bright and there certainly were a lot of them.

It wasn’t that way the last time the Tualatin High School baseball team played McMinnville.

This time was a lot different — and there was a lot more on the line.

The Timberwolves, who fell 5-3 to the Grizzlies in a Pacific Conference finale on May 14, made sure the outcome would be different in the rematch. Tualatin, behind an overwhelming performance featuring an overpowering outing by junior pitcher Jacob Bennett, powered its way to a 9-2 win over McMinnville in a Class 6A state playoff quarterfinal game played in front of a large crowd Friday at Tualatin High School.

“That was a lot of fun,” Tualatin senior outfielder Brandon Shroyer said during the Wolves’ victory celebration. “We wanted to jump on them early and put it away. This was great.”

by: DAN BROOD - BIG-GAME BENNETT -- Tualatin junior Jacob Bennett picked up a complete-game pitching win and he had two hits at the plate in the Wolves' 9-2 victory over McMinnville.“It’s awesome,” said Bennett, who picked up a complete-game pitching victory to go along with a pair of key hits at the plate. “We live to fight another day. McMinnville is a great team, and both teams respect each other, but we were really ready for them today.”

“This is an exciting time of year,” Tualatin senior outfielder Cooper Brunner said. “I’m enjoying the run.”

by: DAN BROOD - HE'S GOT IT -- Tualatin senior Brandon Shroyer makes the first of his two running catches in right field.McMinnville, the Pacific Conference runner-up, finished its season with a final overall record of 21-8. Tualatin, the Pacific Conference champion, improved to 24-5 on the season to that point with the win. The Wolves also advanced to play at North Medford in Tuesday’s semifinal round of the Class 6A state playoffs.

“That’s a big deal,” Tualatin senior catcher Jake Gellos said of the Wolves’ first semifinal appearance since 2010. “We’re looking forward to going to North Medford and getting the job done.”

“I’m so happy to get to go to the semis with these guys,” Bennett said.

Bennett, a hard-throwing right hander, sure seemed to do his share in making sure Tualatin earned that semifinal bid.

That started in the top of the first inning, when Bennett struck out the side in DAN BROOD - ANOTHER RUN -- Tualatin junior Trevor Riese slides in for a run during the Wolves' state playoff quarterfinal win over McMinnville.

“He set the tone,” Gellos said.

And the Wolves kept rolling with it, getting a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning off McMinnville junior pitcher David Brosius, who got the win against Tualatin in the May 14 game.

“We felt more comfortable going up against Brosius today,” Shroyer said.

Gellos got things going for Tualatin, drawing a one-out walk in the bottom of the first. He moved to third base on a pair of wild pitches, and then scored on a McMinnville throwing error of a grounder hit by Shroyer.

Bennett then tripled to the fence in right-center field, driving in Shroyer to give the Wolves their quick 2-0 lead.

Tualatin added another run in the bottom of the second inning. Sophomore Nathan Senger drew a walk to lead off the frame, and he ended up scoring on Gellos’ double to the gap in left-center field, giving the Wolves a 3-0 advantage.

Bennett continued his big day in the bottom of the third inning, leading off the frame with a bunt single. Sophomore Chris Fishback, pinch-running for Bennett, ended up scoring on Senger’s one-out single to left field. Junior Trevor Riese, who earlier singled, would score on a junior Tanner Marsh’s sacrifice fly later in the inning to give the Wolves a 5-0 advantage.

by: DAN BROOD - WAY TO GO -- Tualatin senior Jake Gellos is congratulated by his Timberwolf teammates after scoring in the Wolves' win over McMinnville.But, in the top of the fourth inning, McMinnville tried to battle its way back into the contest. The Grizzlies, behind a walk, a single and a Tualatin error, loaded the bases with one out in the frame. McMinnville junior Cameron Fox then walked on four pitches, bringing in freshman Wyatt Smith from third base for the Grizzlies’ first run. Bennett, getting a strikeout and coaxing groundout, avoided any further damage in the inning.

But, after the frame, there may have been questions how much more Bennett, who was going on three days rest, could pitch in the game.

“I talked to him, and he said ‘don’t take me out, I’m going to win this game,’” Tualatin coach Adam Strachan said.

“He asked if I was OK,” Bennett said. “I said I have three more innings to go. I owed it to the team.”

In those final three innings, the determined Bennett gave up one unearned run on three hits while striking out three.

“I can’t say enough about Jacob,” Strachan said.

by: DAN BROOD - RUNNING HARD -- Tualatin senior Joey Fishback (left) races to first base in the Timberwolves' state playoff win over McMinnville.Meanwhile, the Tualatin offense tacked on four more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, with both Brunner and Shroyer having RBI singles in the frame.

The game ended with Bennett striking out Brosius, igniting a Timberwolf celebration.

“Jake and I usually just shake hands after a game,” Bennett said. “But, this time, we brought it in for a hug. The whole celebration is awesome.”

“It feels good to go this far,” Gellos said. “We have two more left.”

“Oh my gosh, this is incredible,” Senger said. “This was just a great team win. This has just been a great experience.”

“This was just really enjoyable,” Strachan said with a smile.

In getting the complete-game pitching victory, Bennett gave up two runs (both unearned) on four hits while striking out seven and walking four.

“The funning thing is that, before the game, I had the worst bullpen session in my career,” Bennett said. “Then I struck out the side in the first inning. I said ‘what the heck is going on?’”

The Wolves also played strong defense behind Bennett, turning a double play and getting a pair of diving catches from Shroyer in right field.

“That was good,” Shroyer said with a smile. “With Jacob pitching, I don’t have to worry about them going over my head, so I was playing shallow and got the opportunity to make some plays.”

“Defense is really big for us,” said Senger, who plays at second base. “We love making plays for our pitchers.”

The Wolves also got a key defensive play from senior first baseman Taylor Boos, who, with runners on first and second with no one out in the top of the sixth, made a diving grab of a hard grounder hit by McMinnville junior Kyle Casey.

by: DAN BROOD - TAKE A BASE -- Tualatin sophomore Chase Anderson (right) steals second base in the Wolves' win over McMinnville.“We really missed Taylor,” Strachan said of Boos, who recently returned to action after suffering a broken thumb. “He’s so good on defense, and he’s such a smart kid.”

Tualatin, as a team had nine hits in the win. Bennett went 2 for 4 at the plate with a triple and an RBI.

Senger had a hit to go with two runs scored and an RBI. Gellos, Riese, Marsh, Brunner, Shroyer and junior Eli Robinson added one hit apiece for the Wolves.

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