After a loss in the Clackamas County championship round, Wilsonville experienced the unfamiliar feeling of defeat.
Wilsonville, a Junior Baseball Organization team in the 11-12-year-old age group, won the league championship and the county championship last year, won the league championship and the state championship two years ago, posted a 17-1 record during this year's regular season and won this year's league championship.
And they came just a couple runs short of capturing another title in the county championship game against Clackamas at Memorial Park Sunday, July 16.
Still, they were one of two teams in Clackamas County to qualify for the state tournament, and head coach Brian Keswick says the loss could have positive implications — as it did two years ago when the team lost in the county tournament and then won the state tournament. The team will compete in the Junior Federal State Championship tournament in Lebanon July 20-23.
"Getting second place drives your practices. When we get to state, kids will be hungry to work on things we need to work on and prepare for the next round," Keswick said.
Wilsonville beat a different Clackamas team and a couple Tualatin teams en route to the county title round.
Then, they faced an opponent in Clackamas that has been a healthy rival over the years.
"We've played them probably 15 times over the last few years and we always have really good, spirited games," Keswick said.
In the final game Sunday afternoon, Wilsonville took a 2-0 lead before Clackamas scored four runs to take a 4-2 lead, eventually taking a 7-5 advantage into the final inning. Then, Wilsonville had the tying run at the plate but couldn't manufacture a timely hit.
But the loss didn't tarnish what has been a wildly successful three-year run.
Keswick says in the first practice over two years ago, he could tell the boys were enthusiastic about playing baseball and playing it together.
"I think for one they really enjoy playing together. The chemistry is good. They support each other, root for each other. They're friends on and off the field," Keswick said.
On the field, the team relies on a strong pitching staff — featuring starters Bradley Keswick, Ryan Soderlund and Kallen Guttridge — as well as sharp defense and scrappy hitting and base running.
"We try to do a lot of the little things and scrape some runs together. Our pitching has been excellent for three years and our defense has been really good. If you can do those things you can stay in most games," Keswick said.
On a few occasions in big tournaments, Wilsonville has lost an early game and then rallied off a bevy of wins to earn high placings.
"The nice thing about my team is they're all winners. They play super hard and are competitive. It doesn't matter if it's basketball, soccer or baseball; they've always been winners," Keswick said.
With the success this team has had, Keswick says they have a target on their back. Game after game, opposing teams put forth their best effort in order to beat them. Yet Wilsonville still comes out on top most of the time. They'll hope to do so again in the state tournament.
"I'm impressed with this group of kids. To be able to win three league championships in a row, it doesn't matter what level you're playing, that's really tough, especially in baseball. We are seeing everyone's best. People want to knock you off and it's a big deal when they do," Keswick said.