Fired-up Wolves win playoff opener
TUALATIN — The Tualatin High School baseball team remembers the first round of the 2017 Class 6A state playoffs all too well.
The Timberwolves saw their season end soon than they hoped, as they fell 10-9 at McNary.
Tualatin was determined to make sure that didn't happen again this year.
And, thanks to a dominating pitching performance by senior Danny Shell, as well as some timely, clutch hitting, it didn't.
The Timberwolves opened 2018 postseason play by getting a 4-1 win over Barlow in a Class 6A state playoff first-round game played Monday at Tualatin High School.
"We kinda blew it last year, and this is our revenge tour," Shell said after the victory. "This was a big one. It was a great way to get it started."
"It was a great day to come out and kick off our playoffs," said Tualatin senior catcher Cole Kinman, who drove in the first run of the game. "It all came together. We were super excited for today's game, and we had a fire lit underneath us."
With the loss, Barlow, the No. 4 team out of the Mt. Hood Conference and the No. 22 team in the final OSAA power rankings, finished its season with a record of 15-13. Tualatin, which shared the Three Rivers League title with Lake Oswego and West Linn, and the No. 12 team in the power rankings, improved to 19-8 with the win. The Wolves also advance to the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs, where they'll travel to West Salem on Wednesday for a 5 p.m. contest.
"It's another big game," Shell said. "We just have to keep it going. I think we can do it."
"We're going to have a hard day of practice tomorrow, get ready for Wednesday's game, and go kick some butt," Kinman said.
That's kind of what Tualatin did in Monday's playoff opener, thanks in part to Shell.
The left-hander, in seven innings of work, gave up one run on five hits, while striking out nine and walking two.
"I felt really good," Shell said. "I came out ready today."
"Oh, man, I can't tell you how awesome that kid is to catch," Kinman said. "Every single pitch, he had on today — his fastball, both of them, he had a slider and his curveball and change-up were all on. When you're executing that many pitches, it's hard to have success off of him. He had a great day today, I'm so proud of him."
Meanwhile, the fired-up Timberwolves were able to get on the scoreboard early in Monday's game.
Senior Colby Jackson got things started for Tualatin, ripping a two-out triple to right field. Kinman followed with a ground-ball single to left field, driving Jackson for the game's first run.
"That got things rolling," Kinman said. "It was definitely clutch having Colby come up and be a dude like that."
Tualatin added on two more runs in the bottom of the second inning. Junior Gavin Moore drew a one-out walk to get things going. Senior Sean Chamberlin followed with an infield single. Junior Kyle Dernedde then drilled a line single to left field. Moore and Chamberlin both came around to score on the play when the Barlow left-fielder misplayed the ball, giving the Wolves an early 3-0 advantage.
"Those were huge," Shell said of the early runs. "It gave me so much confidence as a pitcher. I just went out and did my thing. My teammates backed me up."
Barlow got a run back in the top of the fifth inning when sophomore Durham Sundberg, who led off the frame with a single, scored on a groundout by senior Colton Thompson, cutting the lead to 3-1.
The Wolves answered back with a run in the bottom of the sixth, when senior Cameron Springer scored from second base on a single by senior Chris Freese, upping the margin to 4-1.
Barlow got a one-out single by senior Caden Jensen in the top of the seventh, but Shell responded by getting a strikeout and a groundout to end the game.
"It felt great," Shell said with a smile. "We played complete baseball, played the whole game, and that's just what we wanted to see from our team in the first round."
"This was great," Kinman said. "It will definitely be one I remember for a long, long time."
Tualatin, as a team, had eight hits in the victory, with Shell having two of those hits. Dernedde, Kinman, Colby Jackson, sophomore Blake Jackson, Chamberlin and Freese added one hit apiece.
For Barlow, freshman Wilson Weber went 2 for 3 at the plate. Sundberg, Jensen and sophomore A.J. Pileggi-Taylor had the other hits for the Bruins.
Barlow sophomore pitcher Jaren Hunter gave up four runs (three earned) on eight hits, while striking out 11 and walking one.
West Salem, the No. 1 team out of Greater Valley Conference, and the No. 5 team in the OSAA power rankings, brings a 22-6 record into Wednesday's second-round game. The Titans scored a 9-2 home win over Oregon City to open the playoffs on Monday.
Tualatin, if it wins at West Salem on Wednesday, will either host West Albany or play at Jesuit in a state playoff quarterfinal game on Friday.