West Linn wins 13U Babe Ruth state championship
The West Linn 13U Babe Ruth all-star team had the bats, the defense, the arms and the home field advantage.
And at the end of its three-game state tournament — held Friday and Saturday at West Linn High School — West Linn also had a state championship.
The young Lions opened their tournament with a 14-8 win over Gresham on Friday morning, then added a 13-3 win over The Dalles later in the day top secure their spot in Saturday's tournament championship.
In that game, West Linn picked up right where it had left off on Friday, racing past The Dalles 13-1 in five innings to seal up its state crown. Next up, the team will set its sights on a regional tournament crown and a berth in the Babe Ruth World Series; the Pacific Northwest Regional Tournament opens on Tuesday in Meridian, Idaho.
"I'm feeling pretty good about regionals," said West Linn pitcher Zac Stefanich, who threw four innings and allowed no runs on five hits, two walks and one hit batter while striking out one. "I know that we have really come together as a team since the beginning of the year. I feel like we can go really far at regionals and potentially make it to the World Series."
"If we keep our bats alive, we'll do well at regionals," said West Linn first baseman Mason VanBeenen, who went 2 for 2 at the plate, knocked in three runs and scored twice.
West Linn 13, The Dalles 1 (five innings)
West Linn started fast in the championship game, scoring four runs in the bottom of the first inning and two more in the bottom of the second to grab a quick 6-0 lead. Equally impressive, however, was its defense, which turned in double plays in each of those first two frames.
In the top of the first, with runners at first and second and one out, Stefanich got The Dalles' Braden Carnine to ground to Cam Ortiz at second base; Ortiz tagged out Gabe Petroff for one out, then threw out Carnine for a double play.
In the second, with runners again at first and second with one out, West Linn right fielder Brandon Drew caught a fly ball by William Shute, then threw out Carson Smith at third base for another inning-ending double play.
"I think we did fantastic," said Brundage, who went 1 for 2 at the plate, reached base all four times he batted and scored twice. "Knowing that we have a strong defense behind us and a good offense, I knew we could win this game."
In its first at-bat, West Linn got three straight walks from The Dalles starter, then saw VanBeenen greet reliever Brock LaFaver with a three-run triple down the right field line. VanBeenen then scored on an Ortiz groundout to make it 4-0.
West Linn kept its bats rolling the rest of the way, too, adding two more runs in the second inning, four in the third and three more in the fourth to put the game on ice.
In the second, Ty Lorenz singled and later scored on a wild pitch, while Brundage reached base on an error and scored on Stefanich's single to center for a 6-0 lead.
In the third, the Lions' four-run outburst was highlighted by Jacob Fewell's RBI double down the left field line, two runs that scored on errors and another on a balk. And finally, in the fourth, West Linn got a leadoff homer to right-center by Stefanich, an RBI triple by Keghan Kirschman and its final run on an error.
The Dalles' lone run came in the top of the fifth when William Hoover drew a two-out walk from West Linn reliever Kevin Hughes, took second on a balk, moved to third on Gabe Petroff's single to right and scored when Jaxon Pullen singled to left.
Stefanich, who went 2 for 2 with two RBIs and two runs scored, said his team's support made his job at pitcher much easier.
"They got me insurance runs," he said. "I feel a lot less stressed out on the mound knowing that I have a really good chance out there and I knew I had a great team behind me to play defense and they made great plays."
"It was our heart for the game," explained Brundage. "We all wanted to be here and play. We came here to play. We got runners on, hit them in and scored — it wins games."
For the game, The Dalles' Petroff went 2 for 3 and reached base in all three of his bats, while Pullen went 2 for 3 with one RBI.
West Linn 13, The Dalles 3
The Lions were just as tough on The Dalles in their second tournament game, scoring three times in the first, once in the second, six times in the fourth, twice in the fifth and once in the sixth to win going away.
While pitcher Luke Paschall and the Lions shut down The Dalles on five hits, four walks and one hit batter, West Linn's offense carried the day. No West Linn batter had more than one hit, but the Lions took advantage of 17 walks to win easily.
Stefanich knocked in two runs and scored twice, Brundage went 1 for 1 and scored three times, and Jacob Moss was 1 for 3 and scored twice.
West Linn 14, Gresham 8
In its tournament opener, West Linn jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on a series of Gresham errors and getting a two-run double by Paschall.
Gresham rallied to tie the game at 8-8 in the fifth, but West Linn got the winning run when Moss walked, stole second, took third on a ground ball by VanBeenen and scored on a wild pitch.
Brundage drew a bases-loaded walk to put the Lions up 11-8 at the end of the fifth, and West Linn put up three more in the sixth, that at-bat highlighted by Ortiz's two-run single to left field.
After allowing a leadoff single in the bottom of the sixth, West Linn reliever Kevin Hughes struck out the next two batters and Lorenz fielded a grounder at shortstop for the third out.
Hughes struck out the first two batters he faced in the seventh, and Stefanich then struck out the final batter.
Ortiz went to his knees to make a catch on the right side of the infield that he turned into a double play to end the first inning. West Linn retired the side in order in the third, with Brandon Drew tracking down a fly ball in right field for the third out.
Gresham left the bases loaded three times, with Stefanich catching a fly ball in left field to end the fifth and keep the game tied 8-8.
To see a complete photo gallery from Saturday's championship game, click here.
— David Ball contributed to this story