Clackamas scored two runs in the fifth inning to break a 3-3 tie and held on to advance to the state tournament in La Grande

REVIEW/NEWS PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Clackamas clinched the Little League Baseball District 2 championship with a 5-4 win Tuesday over Southeast Portland at Clackamas' Riveside County Park.Shannon Pando's RBI-groundout scored Maurice Mayers from third base with what proved to be the game-winning run in the fifth inning, lifting the Clackamas All-Stars to a 5-4 victory over Southeast Portland in Tuesday's 10-12 Oregon District 2 Little League Baseball championship game at Clackamas' Riverside County Park.

Mayers finished 2-for-3 with two doubles and an RBI and closed the game on the mound with two strikeouts, sending Clackamas into the eight-team state tournament beginning Saturday in La Grande.

The winner of the state tournament advances to the Aug. 4-12 West Regional in San Bernadino, California, with an opportunity to move on to the Aug. 17-27 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

"This game could have gone either way today," Clackamas coach Neil Fera said. "Pitching is always the biggest thing. We pitched well enough to keep us in the game and then we had a couple of really big defensive plays.

"What's really cool about this team is it's really versatile and really athletic. We've got a lot of guys that play a lot of different positions, so if somebody goes down, we've got a next-man-up."

Tied at 3-3, Clackamas' Ian Pollard led off the fifth with a single, went to third on a throwing error, and scored the go-ahead run on Mayers' double to the gap in right-center.

Pando followed with a bouncer back to the pitcher, who threw to first, allowing Mayers to race home and give Clackamas a 5-3 lead.

In the sixth, Southeast Portland's Finbar O'Brien led off with a home run to left off Mayers, the fourth pitcher used by Clackamas in the game.

Mayers then retired the next three batters in order, one on a grounder to second and the final two on strikeouts.

"I've had Maurice on my regular-season team the last two years and he's a kid that really loves baseball, he works really hard, and he's a super-talented kid," Fera said. "He had a couple big hits tonight, and then we plike our chances if we're ahead and he's on the mound."

Southeast Portland took a 1-0 lead against Clackamas starter Leo Renzema in the second inning when Isaiah Marcell reached on a fielder's choice and scored on Ari Mesulam's two-out double to right.

Clackamas answered in the bottom of the second when Tanir Sagun and Jackson Fera drew walks and Renzema reached on an infield single to load the bases with no outs.

Sagun and Fera both scored on a wild pitch that caromed off the backstop and bounced halfway up the first base line, and then Renzema scored on Elliot Carrillo's fly ball to right field, giving Clackamas a 3-1 lead.

Southeast Portland got a run back in the third and then tied the game in the fourth when Desmond Lewis-Volponi drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk.

In the fifth, Southeast Portland's Jack Bernstein-Sheehan led off with a single, and then Pollard made the defensive play of the game at second base for Clackamas, diving to grab Mesulam's hard grounder up the middle and then scrambling on his hands and knees to get to the base and retire the lead runner.

"That play at second was really big," Neil Fera said. "That might have been a game-saver. Ian is the only 10-year-old on the team and he came through big."

Renzema, the Clackamas starter, pitched the first three innings and faced 18 batters, allowing two runs on four hits with four walks and three strikeouts.

Mason Eads and Pando worked the next two innings in relief and surrendered one run on three hits with two walks and four strikeouts, setting the stage for Mayers in the sixth.

With Tuesday's win, Clackamas remained undefeated in tournament play and avoided having to turn around and play Southeast Portland for a third time Wednesday in the double-elimination format.

"That is huge," Neil Fera said. "It gives us an extra day off and an extra day to get ready, and it saves pitching, too. With pitch counts, if we would have had to play on Wednesday, anyone who throws more than 50 pitches on Wednesday couldn't pitch on Saturday, which becomes a big factor.

"We feel pretty good about where we are with our pitching going into Saturday with getting it done today."

Clackamas opens the state tournament against the District 4 champion in a 2:30 p.m. game Saturday at Pioneer Park in La Grande.

"We were fortunate enough to go to state with the 8-9-10-year-old team last year in Medford and it was the first big road trip for the kids," Neil Fera said. "It's a really great experience for them to go on the road, stay in a hotel and play other teams from around the state. It's a lot of fun.

"Now, it's mostly about pitching and defense. You're going to see close-scoring games like this. You've got kids that can hit the ball and kids that can throw hard, but you've got to be able to win close games, and pitching and defense is how you do that."

By Jim Beseda
Sports editor
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