Oregon City claims third-place trophy, sportsmanship award at state
After six games in four days, the Oregon City Junior Baseball Organization Senior National team had reached its limit.
Battling through the consolation bracket after a loss in the championship quarterfinals, the Pioneers dropped an 11-10 decision to Monroe in the consolation final and finished third in the July 20-23 state tournament at Renne Field in Newberg.
Oregon City also was honored with the team sportsmanship award after going 4-2 in the 12-team, double-elimination tournament.
Neah-Kah-Nie defeated Monroe 9-7 in the final, completing an undefeated run to the state title.
"I've never had a group of kids that played with as much teamwork or had the ability to pick each other up when they were down like this team," Oregon City coach Joshua McRae said. "It was a feel-good story with some seventh- and eighth-grade kids who were almost naive enough to not know how good they were.
"We had a group of kids on this team that a couple of them hadn't even played baseball before, and for some of them it was their last hoorah before moving on to high school."
Tied at 7-7 in the consolation final after Monroe scored a run in the top of the sixth inning, Oregon City turned a walk, a triple by Damion Hays, two more walks and a passed ball into three runs to regain a 10-7 lead.
In the seventh, Monroe scored four runs on two walks and four hits to go back in front, 11-10.
Eli Snider then led off the Oregon City seventh with a single, and advanced to third on Luke Agee's single, keeping the Pioneers' hopes alive.
With two outs, Snider tried to score on a passed ball, but was tagged out on a bang-bang play at the plate to end the game.
"It was an absolutely fantastic battle," McRae said. "They didn't want it to end. They had such a good time and they battled to the last out. And to go down to the team that finished No. 2, it was quite an accomplishment."
Oregon City opened the tournament with a 6-5 win over Liberty. Trailing 5-0, the Pioneers scored a run in the fourth, one in the fifth, three in the sixth, and then put the game away in the seventh when Owen McRae scored from third on a passed ball.
In the second round, Josh McIntyre's two-run single scored Eli Snider and Luke Agee, breaking a seventh-inning tie and lifting Oregon City to a 10-8 win over Mill City.
After losing 20-5 to Neah-Kah-Nie in the quarterfinals, the Pioneers came back in consolation play to beat Gaston 9-3 and Clackamas 16-13.
Against Clackamas, Agee went 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs, and Anthony Johnson, Colby VanOrso, Owen McRae, Hays and Snider added two hits each to lead Oregon City's 14-hit attack.
Trailing 11-3, Clackamas scored five runs in the fifth inning to cut Oregon City's lead to 11-8, but the Pioneers answered with two runs in the sixth and one in the seventh, setting up the showdown with Monroe.
"It was our sixth game of the tournament and Monroe's fourth, so we didn't have much pitching left," Joshua McRae said. "We were down to kids who had never pitched in a game all season. Whoever had anything left, they were just bringing it."
JBO baseball is divided into three grade divisions: Midgets (third/fourth), Juniors (fifth/sixth), and Seniors (seventh/eighth). Within each grade division, there are three different skill designations: National (novice), American (intermediate), and Federal (advanced), so McRae's team ranked near the lower end of the skill chart.
"It was almost a shock teaching some of these kids just some basic rules," McRae said. "They started way back in the beginning of March and I told them that my philosophy as a coach is, 'We're going to stick to fundamentals, we're going to be really good at the basics, and we're going to be really fast.'
"They came out every game and would just grind. Some of these kids haven't played enough baseball to know that, 'Hey, I should be nervous in this situation.' They just played baseball and had a good time. They had fun."