West Linn pushes No. 1 Westview to the edge before falling 5-3
The Lions had it.
The West Linn baseball team, facing top-ranked Westview in the Class 6A state quarterfinals on Friday at Westview High School, took a two-run lead in the top of the sixth inning and still led by one with two outs in the bottom of the sixth.
But the Wildcats, the six-time reigning Metro League champions, stayed alive with a hit and a West Linn error, then won the game when Mason Guerra drilled a three-run double to beat the Lions 5-3.
Despite the loss, the Lions left proud of their season and their effort against Westview.
"I think we're definitely proud, everyone here," said West Linn junior shortstop Jonathon Kelly, who went 2 for 3 at the plate and scored twice. "You don't see a lot of tears, you don't see a lot of hung heads because we worked hard and we left everything we had out there on the field."
"We knew coming in that (Westview pitcher Willie Weiss) was going to be tough because he throws hard, and we know that we were we going to have to play at the top of our game to keep it close and we did keep it close," said West Linn senior catcher Micah Gibson, who had one hit in three at-bats. "We had a chance to win, but we just fell a little short."
"It's sad that we didn't have the outcome we wanted, but we fought hard. It was a really good game," added senior right fielder Garrett Marioni, who went 2 for 3 and knocked in two runs. "We fought hard, they put (Weiss) on the mound and we just battled. If we were to go out any way, it would be on a hard-fought game like this."
With the loss, West Linn — the Three Rivers League champion — ended its season at 21-9. Westview improved its season record to 26-3 and advanced to Tuesday's state semifinals against West Salem.
For most of the game, the day's two pitchers — Weiss and West Linn senior Zach Anderson — were in control, with neither team scoring until the Lions notched a run in the top of the fourth.
Not to say that weren't other chances on each side Friday afternoon. West Linn senior James Marshall led off the game with a triple, but failed to scored when Weiss set the next three batters down in order, two of those on strikeouts.
The Wildcats got hits from both Jhamante Woods and Carter Sakamoto in the second inning, but Anderson induced an inning-ending double-play to end that threat.
But West Linn took the lead in the top of the fourth when Kelly singled to right, stole second and scored when Marioni doubled down the right field line to make it 1-0.
The Lions very nearly made it a two-run lead in the fifth when Garrett Wiancko singled to left, pinch runner Tate Kadel took second on Drew Vannaman's bunt, then got thrown out at the plate when Westview made an error on Marshall's grounder to second and Kadel tried to score.
The Wildcats tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the fifth when Sakamoto singled to left, then scored on Guerra's double to left.
Undaunted, the Lions responded with two runs in the top of the sixth, getting back-to-back singles from Kelly and Gibson, and after a walk to Griffin Banta, a run-scoring single from Marioni that skipped off the top of Wildcat shortstop Jacob Cox's glove.
Weiss got a double play for the first two outs of the sixth, but saw his team fall behind 3-1 when he uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Banta to score.
In Westview's half of the sixth, Anderson got the first out of the frame, then gave up a solo homer to left by Weiss and a single to Ben Brauckmann that ended his day. Reliever Caleb Franzen struck out Woods for the second out, gave up a single to Sakamoto, then induced a ground ball to Zach Bell at third base that could have ended the inning. Bell played the ball off his chest, picked it up and tried to tag out pinch runner Caden Rickman as he slid into third, only to see the umpire rule Rickman safe.
Guerra, the next batter, took advantage of his chance in the spotlight, hammering a line drive over Banta's head in left field to plate three runs and essentially win the game.
The Lions then went down 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh to end the contest.
"We are a band of brothers and we picked each other up throughout the season," Kelly said. "We had a couple of ups and downs, but honestly, we couldn't ask for anything else."
"We definitely had confidence as a team," Marioni added. "Leaving the state championship at the end of last year, we kind of built on that. We really wanted to get back there."
For the game, Anderson threw 5 1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits and no walks while striking out none. Weiss pitched all seven innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out eight.
For Westview, Weiss went 2 for 3 with a double, one RBI and one run, Guerra was 2 for 3 with four RBIs, and Sakamoto went 3 for 3 with two RBIs.