By Jeremy McDonald
LAKE OSWEGO, Ore.–The Firecracker Tournament, one of the most prestigious tournaments in Oregon.
For the past 22 years, the Firecracker has brought some of the best teams to Lake Oswego to compete with one another.
Started as a 16 team tournament with two separate locations, Lake Oswego and Lakeridge High Schools thanks to Dave Gasser and Jake Anders, it eventually became one location at Lakeridge as they kept the tradition going after both Gasser and Anders left Lakeridge and LO.
Now, it’s still a 16-team tourney that is stretched over four days leading up to the Fourth of July.
“It’s one of the best community events that we put on,” sadi Pacer Head Coach Marco Tavera. “I mean, if you came to a night game and see how many alumni come back from Classes of ’12, 2007. There’s so many different people that come back to this and it’s unbelievable.
“It’s a great to meet all the parents who work their butts off to put it on and it’s huge. A lot of schools want to get into our tournament and getting in is hard, but it’s fun to put it on.”
One of those alumni, and is also a parent that is helping out, is Eric Sporre. And though the Firecracker started after he graduated, Sporre saw his son, Matt, play in the tournament while at Lakeridge.
“It’s kind of grown into one of the top tournaments in the Northwest in that time. We got a great parent base doing a lot of volunteer work on it. We’ve got a great coaching staff, and just the baseball community in general here in Lake Oswego has been really, really, supportive of it.
“But you get to see some really great baseball, a lot of great players have come through here. It’s evidence, they’res a lot of scouts in the stands, you see a lot of college coaches in the stand. It’s just a great community.”
For current Jesuit Head Coach Collin Griffin, he remembers how important this tradition of the Firecracker Tournament dating back to when he coached at Lakeridge between 2008-2014.
“It’s a great site to have the venue. It’s a really nice baseball setting,” said Griffin. “As far as history behind it every coach knows how much pride the community, the Lakeridge community has in this tournament. The coach knows that it’s their job to put on a first-class operation here and that’s why you look out here and you see the field painted with the American flag.
“The grandstands are in beautiful shape. The Barbecue is going all the time, it’s just a great venue and it’s a big responsibility as a head coach to continue that incredible tradition that we started 22-years ago.”
The athlete’s enjoy it. Kids from Jesuit, Westview, Jesuit face each other and even two teams from out of the country with the Perth Heat from Australia and a team from Singapore as they look to get better.
“It’s been my favorite tournament since I was a kid,” said Lakeridge’s Tommy Andrew. “It’s hometown, favorite place to be. Being able to pitch in it, play in it, play with the guys in it. I mean, with it being my last year, I can’t imagine a way to end it.”
The senior pitched a two-hit complete game shutout versus McNary to start the tournament Thursday to start pool play as host Lakeridge went 3-1 in the tournament.
THE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
With the tournament winding down in it’s final day, the Championship game featured the defending champs in Westview and a great team in West Linn.
Both teams were unbeaten entering this game, Westview having beaten Columbia River 11-2 and West Linn were winners over Singapore in the semi-fianl round and as you would expect, it’ll be great.
And it was.
The Lions struck first in this pitchers dual as for the next few innings the score stood at 1-0 until the fifth inning when the Robinson Construction’s Carter Sakamoto tied it with a RBI base knock and Ben Braukman gave them a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth in favor of Westview.
Robinson Construction is the sponsor the summer league team Westview is named after.
Then it came down to the pitching Keegan Huey and Brady Johnson. He struck out the first two batters before I go into bass runs to get onto base with two outs.
Johnson will come in for relief and with the added pressure on he was afraid he knew what he had to do.
“It was pretty good, a lot of adrenaline,” said Johnson. “Keegan, starting pitching, kept us in the game and everyone didn’t quit, we freaking battled till the end. These guys battle to the end.
He did just that striking and striking out with the final out against West Linn for Westview’s 2nd Straight firecracker title.
“Right now I feel on top of the world,” said Huey. “I think we could win this and last year our team won it and we knew we had to follow in their footsteps.
“I think it just shows how good of a program we are,” said Huey.