Pioneers upset the Martinek-led Crusaders

OREGON CITY - The upstart Oregon City Pioneers turned more than a few heads on Saturday, May 26, when they stunned fourth-ranked Jesuit, winning 6-5 in extra innings in the Class 6A high school baseball quarterfinals.

The upset advanced the unheralded Pioneers to a state playoff baseball semifinal game for only the eighth time in school history.

The quarterfinal contest with Jesuit was a bizarre game, suspended because of lightning with the score tied at 4-4 after seven innings on May 25. And it was a game with controversy. The Pioneers were leading 4-2 heading into the top of the seventh when an apparent reversed call by an official gave the Crusaders new life.

The Crusaders had runners at second and third in the seventh when a Jesuit batter launched a fly ball to right field. Oregon City right fielder Dillon Riley made a shoestring catch on the play and fired the ball to catcher Jon Reece too late to prevent a run from scoring. Believing that the Crusader baserunner who scored from third failed to tag up on the play, Jon Reece fired the ball to Clay Reece at third and the Pioneers appealed the run.

Oregon City coaches and players initially thought that the umpire had called the runner out on the appeal, and the players left the field. But the umpires huddled following the play and concluded two things: That the fly ball caught by Riley in right field was indeed a catch, and that the Jesuit baserunner had tagged at third.

Oregon City players returned to the field with their lead at 4-3. The next Jesuit batter singled to centerfield, bringing in a baserunner and tying the score at 4-4.

Oregon City was unable to push a run across in the bottom of the seventh. Play was then suspended because of lightning - to be continued on Saturday, May 26.

There was plenty of excitement as play resumed on May 26, with both teams going to their bullpens.

Jesuit got two baserunners on in the top of the eighth, on a walk and a hit batter, before Oregon City reliever Dustin LaGrange settled down and struck out Jesuit's No. 8 batter, Christian Martinek, on three pitches. Jesuit senior Keenan Hatfield then hit a ground ball up the middle. Oregon City shortstop Jacob Tipton fielded the ball cleanly, stepped on the bag at second and fired to Marc Morris at first for a double play, retiring the side.

Jesuit left-handed reliever Beau Ueland made it 3-up and 3-down for Oregon City in the bottom of the eighth.

Jesuit appeared to take charge of the game in the top of the ninth, scoring the go ahead run with two walks and a run-scoring single by clean-up hitter Peter Dempsey.

But the Crusader relief pitchers struggled with control in the bottom of the ninth. Tipton drew a full-count walk to lead off Oregon City's half of the ninth.

Josh Scott singled and Riley loaded up the bases with no one down as he reached as a hit batsman while squared up to bunt.

Cary Swalwell, hitting against reliever Tony Albanese, plated Tipton for the tying run on a ground ball to second. The play at the plate was close, but Tipton knocked the ball from Jesuit's catcher's hands for the run, and it was all tied up at 5-5.

Jon Reece grounded to Jesuit's shortstop, who made the throw in time for the force at the plate.

Enter Clay Reece, who drew a walk on four straight pitches, bringing home Riley for the game-winner.

And Oregon City players, coaches and fans erupted in celebration.

Oregon City had one big inning on the first day of the game, scoring four runs in the fifth inning, for a 4-1 lead, on three hits, a hit batsman and a passed ball. Tipton led off the big inning with a base hit to right, advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Scott and scored on a triple to right by Riley.

Swalwell reached as a hit batsmen, and Jon Reece followed with a two-run double to left-center. Reece advanced to third on a passed ball, and scored Oregon City's fourth run of the inning when he got Jesuit ace left-hander Martinek to balk.

'Our coaches tell us when we get to third to do anything we can to distract the pitcher and take his mind off the batter,' Jon Reece said. 'It's especially effective if the pitcher's a left-hander. I did a stutter-step, and Martinek balked.'

Martinek, who has a fastball clocked in the 90's, struck out eight Oregon City batters and held the Pioneers to just four hits in his seven innings on the mound.

Rilyn Lewchuk pitched the first seven innings for Oregon City, scattering nine hits.

Jesuit finished with a 23-6 record, with two of the losses to Oregon City. The Pioneers dropped the Crusaders 4-2 in a May 16 practice game at Jesuit.

'This is a testament to how hard we've worked,' said Oregon City senior Louis Wolf. 'Our core group of seniors didn't miss one open gym. We practiced three to four days a week all winter....

'We may not be one of the top four teams in the state, but we've made the final four. Whether or not it's a turnaround in our program, we've made our mark. It's a great feeling!'

'It means a lot to beat Jesuit a second time,' said Jon Reece. 'When we beat them the first time, people said it was a fluke. To beat them a second time proves it's no fluke. To beat Jesuit twice shows we can play with anybody in the state. It's the best feeling in the world.'

'This makes me so proud of my teammates,' said Pioneer senior Marc Morris. 'We've had so many ups and downs, but we've come together and we're peaking at the right time. It feels great to be a part of it! I wouldn't want to go to [the state semifinals in] Roseburg with any other team.'

'It means so much to have a huge crowd and all of the support from the community,' said senior Shawn Hepler. 'Coming together as a family and having the town believing in us and supporting us, it's just a great feeling!'

'What's different from last year is we've worked a lot harder,' said Oregon City senior Josh Benedict. 'And we're a team. It's not an individual thing this year, it's a team accomplishment, and I'm proud to be a part of it.'

'We've brought Oregon City baseball back into the loop,' said Pioneer senior Luke Morris. Now other teams will respect us. I feel honored to be a part of this team, especially since we got a win over that Martinek stud.'

With the quarterfinal win, the Pioneers advanced to a May 29 semifinal game at top-ranked Roseburg.

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