By Jeremy McDonald
WEST LINN, Ore.– With the regular season coming down to these last two games, the Battle For Second Place in the Three Rivers League was indeed heating up.
On one end, you have West Linn. The OSAA 6A Runner-up in 2015 and sat in second place entering Tuesday’s senior night with the fourth-place team in Lakeridge.
But, in the abyss of battle, through all the hits, errors and walks, the Pacers tightened the race for second-place with a 6-3 victory as the series takes a turn for Lakeridge High School Wednesday.
“It’s just good momentum going into playoffs, more about the win than playoffs than anything else,” said senior Matt Sporre. “Tomorrow’s senior night so hopefully we just be able to relax and focus on the more than the series. We’re playing for second place in league so that’ll probably help us too.”
Head Coach Marco Tavera knows this momentum is huge after dropping two tough games last week against Lake Oswego.
“It’s big for us momentum-wise especially after what we did last week,” said Tavera. “The belief the boys had today and come out with the win is huge.”
Down 1-0 entering their half of the second inning, Lakeridge took advantage of West Linn’s three errors on top of their own three hits to take a 2-1 lead entering the bottom half of the second inning.
With a combination of grit and strong defense against the OSAA 6A State Runner-Up, the Pacers kept the Lions off the board though runners found the base.
But, eventually the bats of West Linn came around for a score thanks to that of Tim Tawa to tie the game up at two through four as Lakeridge relief pitcher Tommy Andrew got a crucial strikeout to get out of a bases loaded situation.
“Defense was huge today, you saw that we had one error in the sixth inning, we did have one error earlier in the pick-off that they didn’t put up in the board,” started Tavera. “But it was big for us. We got groundballs, got pop-flies and made those plays. That’s a big step for us, Friday we had six errors against (Lake Oswego).”
The Pacers would regain the lead in the Top of the fifth on a Michael Kuhn single, only to have the Lions tie it up in the bottom of the fifth.
That would be the last time West Linn would even tie the game because of the bats of Lakeridge.
With three runs in the top of the fifth inning, to go along with their defense, the Pacers held off the Lions for the huge win.
For Tavera, he preaches aggressive play. Offesenviely, you have to throw his guys out over and over again. Defensively, it’s all about attacking the hitter.
And you saw them both Tuesday as Tavera knows those three runs in the fifth were huge.
“Those three runs were big because that gives you a little more leeway heading into those later innings and not relax but just keep putting the pressure on them and continue attacking hitters,” he said. “So it was huge.”
Despite the win, Sporre knows that his team can come out tomorrow and limit the two errors and nine walks that the defense permitted in Tuesday’s win.
“I think it just comes with coming together tomorrow and bringing it all together,” said Sporre. “And it all starts with tomorrow.”
Tavera knows that the message tomorrow will be the same as Tuesday’s: Worry about Lakeridge Baseball and play for Lakeridge and each other.
“That’s the big thing we focused on today,” he said. “They’ve got some big hitters. They got guys going to Stanford, guys going to Oregon State. I keep telling our guys that adversity is going to happen, but the big true sign is how are you going to handle it?
“How do you respond to that adversity? So we just have to worry about us tomorrow and take it one pitch at a time and one inning at a time and we can’t worry about them.”
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PHOTO GALLERY (PICTURES BY JEREMY MCDONALD)