EUGENE, Ore.–As they exited and lined up along the third baseline during the introduction of the eight teams of the Single-A Regional tournament, they knew they belonged there with all of the hard work and sacrifice they put in to get to this point of the summer.
With the Color Guard and National Anthem being sang, there too were no doubt there were nerves as they eventually worked back to their dugout with Head Coach Randy Brack trading line-up cards with the Alaska team that made the trip down from Anchorage.
As soon as Coach Brack wrapped up the ground rules, the Aurora Boys picked up their bats and went to work with their home crowd that made the 90 minute drive on down from Aurora.
“Oh it’s pretty exciting, we’re only the second North Marion team to come here, first North Marion team to win a Regional Game,” said Noah Vachter. “It’s nerve-racking, it’s awesome.”32
“At first it’s a little bit nerve-racking, but we got through the first inning, we came back, we came together, we knew where we were and what we need to get done,” said Bryce Lemon. “But yeah it was nervous at first, but we got through it and that’s what all that matters.”
Lemon’s throw to Hunter Schrenk at first in the bottom of the first inning was North Willamette Valley’s one of many plays defensively to help their pitchers in Griffin Henry, David Page and Ryan Olson whenever the ball was in play. Henry (six), Page (two) and Olson (two) all combined for 10 strikeouts in the Regional Opener.
Through the nerves however, North Willamette Valley built a 2-0 lead as Jimenez drew a lead off walk to start the fourth inning that was followed by a Vachter RBI double to make it 3-0 with Andy Schmitz being walked a few pitches later.
That hit by Vachter had trigger something though.
That hit helped spark the bats of NWV with RBI hits by Nic Iliyn’s and Grant Henry coming pretty quickly following Vachter’s hit and before you knew it, it was 8-0 North Willamette Valley entering the bottom of the fourth inning and 12-0 a inning later with the bats rolling as they did a few days earlier in Aurora.
“It was great, coach called a hit-and-run, (I) stuck it out and got to get a good swing on the ball,” said Vachter on the hit.”It was awesome for the guys coming into this. It was awesome to get one focused back up on the score.
“Even though the guy almost had a good play out there, it was a awesome feeling.”
Vachter was one of five North Willamette Valley hitters on the night with two RBIs in the game, the other four were Ilyin, Grant Henry, Griffin Henry and Jimenez.
With Page and Olson coming in for relief of Henry for a inning-and-two-thirds each, they didn’t skip much of a beat and kept Service of Alaska from pushing the game past seven inning of a scheduled nine inning game in the 16-2 victory that set up a familiar match-up Saturday night in Eugene against Roseburg.
Yes, those same Pepsi Bottlecaps that NWV defeated twice 12-10 and 12-1 in the Oregon State Playoffs now meet up again in Day 2 of the Northwest Regional Tournament.
And though they know they got a target on their backs from last weekend from Roseburg, it’s all about continuing the route they are on by doing what they’ve been doing to get to this point:
“Just do the same thing we did today,” said Olson. “They’ll want us because we beat them twice, just stay the same way having our defense do a good job.”
“Just keep doing what we’re doing,” adds Lemon. “Stay in the groove, just coming to the ballpark mentally focus and having the energy that we have. That’s what’s going to get us through.”
First Pitch is at 7:30pm at Swede Johnson Stadium Saturday Night in Eugene.