West Linn's Jake Porter homers to beat Lake Oswego 1-0
The calendar tells us that the first round of the state baseball playoffs don't arrive for almost two weeks.
But the calendar lies.
The West Linn and Lake Oswego baseball teams hooked up in a Three Rivers League classic on Tuesday afternoon that had "playoff" written all over it.
The day's two starting pitchers combined for almost 16 scoreless innings, saw their defenses make play after play to keep the game deadlocked at 0-0 and didn't relent until West Linn senior first baseman Jake Porter smashed a two-out solo home run over the left field fence in the bottom of the eighth inning to beat the Lakers 1-0 at West Linn High School.
"I'm not going to lie … I've always had this dream where I wanted to hit a home run and sometimes I go up there and I try to hit home runs and this time it worked," said Porter. "Obviously, I hit that last one pretty good."
"When we were in that eighth inning, I told these guys, I said 'If we get out of this inning with no runs, the game is over because we've got the top of the lineup coming up and we've got three of the best hitters in the state,'" said senior right-hander Garrison Ritter, who threw all eight innings, shutting out Lake Oswego on four hits and two walks while striking out eight on 96 pitches.
With the win, the top-ranked Lions improved to 14-1 in TRL play, 20-4 overall and clinched the Three Rivers League title (second-place Tigard is 11-4 with just two games remaining).
No. 28 Lake Oswego, meanwhile, lost for the third time in four games and fell to 9-7 in TRL play and 10-14 overall. The Lakers now lead Sherwood for the TRL's fourth automatic playoff berth by just one game. Lake Oswego hosted West Linn yesterday (Wednesday) after the Review's press deadline and closes the regular season at West Linn at 5 p.m. Friday.
"It was a playoff atmosphere today. It was a packed crowd," said Lake Oswego senior shortstop Jake Dukart, who went 1 for 4 at the plate and also handled seven defensive chances without an error. "But this is the kind of game you've got to win to make it far in the playoffs."
Playoff teams also need strong starting pitching and the Lakers certainly got that on Tuesday, with sophomore Alex Giroux throwing 7 2/3 innings and allowing one run on five hits, one walk and one hit batter with three strikeouts.
"I hit my spots throughout. I was just getting into guys and then throwing good breaking balls to put them away," Giroux said. "I just made one bad pitch and it cost us the game."
The first four innings highlighted the day's great pitching, solid defense by both teams — and a number of missed opportunities. In the first inning, Lake Oswego's Sam Haney had a two-out single but failed to advance, while West Linn's Chase Cosner doubled with one out in the bottom of the frame but was stranded there.
In the second inning, LO's Dawson Jaramillo led off with a single, only to see Ritter strike out the next three Laker batters. For the Lions, Jonathon Kelly singled with one out, then got stranded at second.
In the bottom of the third, West Linn got a leadoff single from Evan King only to see Lake Oswego second baseman Harrison Bridwell make a leaping grab of Tim Tawa's line drive and double King off first.
Lake Oswego then went down in order in the fourth and fifth innings, while West Linn followed suit in its half of the fourth.
And after that, in the bottom of the fifth, it got really interesting. West Linn's Ryan Driscoll was hit by a pitch with one out, King singled to right with two down and Tawa walked to load the bases, but Giroux bore down and got Cosner on a first-pitch fly ball to center field to end the threat.
There was more excitement in the top of the sixth when Lake Oswego's Thomas Dukart singled to center, took second on Matt Sebolsky's bunt and third on a Ritter balk. But then, with Jake Dukart at the plate, West Linn catcher Micah Gibson picked Thomas Dukart off third base and the Lakers went scoreless again.
The Lions and Lakers stranded single runners in their next at-bats, then went down 1-2-3 after that to set the table for the Lions' decisive eighth. Giroux was in charge early, getting Tawa on a pop-up and Cosner on a grounder to short, but his good fortune ended then and there. Porter stepped to the plate, got the breaking pitch he was looking for and drove it over the left field fence for the win.
"I expected a curveball there and he threw me a curveball so I was right on it and hit it well," Porter said. "To hit a walk-off to win the league, it's awesome."
"I was throwing him fast balls 'in' the whole day and he couldn't get to them, but I made a mistake with the slider right down the middle and he just got to it," Giroux said.