By Jeremy McDonald
AURORA, Ore.—Post 20 came out swinging against the North Willamette Valley at full strength during the first two innings of Monday’s game as the Dirtbags jumped out to a 5-0 lead on their host.
But, as the Dirtbags cycled out Anthony Zellner (two walks) and Jackson Holstad (1-2 1 RBI) for some fresh faces in advance of their tournament in Eugene Wednesday, a new face emerged on the mound for the North Willamette Valley defense as soon-to-be-junior Hunter Wierstra took over for Ryan Olson on the bump.
Nerves were there as Wierstra took over on the bump against guys, many have recently graduated High School or are about to enter their senior season at their respective schools on the Post 20 squad.
“I was pretty nervous going out there, but I knew that if I threw strikes the defense was going to back me up in that situation and that we’ll get it back to the plate,” said Wierstra.
Wierstra and his defense hung a zero on the board in the third as they got Dallas-grad and Linfield-commit Treve Earhart in a throw-out at second and Nic Iliyn made a stretching catch for the final out of the inning that would have resulted in further damage by Post 20 on the scoreboard.
Through the next five innings, Wierstra pitched five innings and his defense only allowed three runs to come through as the bats of the Dirtbags cooled down a little bit.
“It was good for us to jump out and get a lead, but we got a little passive and just kind of let them back into the game which usually shouldn’t have happened which made the game interesting. We just got to do better than that,” said Post 20’s Peter Mendazona.
“We just got to know that we got to play a full seven innings and that’s our main focus right now. And we got to do our best to finish games because this has happened before where we get off to a good start and we don’t finish well.”
For NWV, all who are playing at North Marion High School and a good amount will be playing Varsity for the Huskies in the Spring, the game like most of their games this season will help them as the summer progress and as they prepare for another deep playoff run in the Spring with the squad playing a American Legion Triple-A schedule to better prepare themselves for the Spring push.
“It’s a really nice feeling to have your defense to back you up and having thrown strikes and having our defense make plays,” said Wierstra. “I think we’re a pretty young team playing Triple-A big teams like this with pretty old guys, it’s going to help us because it’s going to get us prepared. Not only for this (summer) season but for the Spring.”
The bats for North Willamette Valley struck big with three runs in the bottom half of the third, two in the fourth and two in the fifth inning to take a 7-6 lead on the Dirtbags as Noah Amador came in for relief for the starter Tristan Fergus (4 innings, 1 strikeout).
“It was nice because we finally clicked as a team and we just needed to be fluent and just start understanding how to hit off of him the best we can,” said NWV’s and soon-to-be North Marion Huskie Junior Isaac Hansen, who went 1-for-4 with an RBI Monday night and was apart of the third inning scoring.
Amador, like Wierstra, slowed the bats down of his opposition as Post 20 tied and Mendazona would give the Dirtbags the lead for good in the top half of the seventh inning off a fielder’s choice that brought in Eric Kessler for the 8-7 lead. Mendazona beat out the throw to avoid a double-play that would have negate the run as Amador and the Dirtbag defense turned a 1, 2, 3 inning to seal the 8-7 victory on the road.
“It’s nerve-racking knowing that we have a one-run lead, but I have confidence in Noah on the mound. He was pumping strikes and pounding the zone, so we were able to put them away,” said Mendazona.
Amador finished with three strikeouts in three innings to Wierstra’s one strikeout in five innings as Post 20 open the Papa’s Tourney at Swede Johnson at 5pm Wednesday as the Dirtbags look to win their third Tournament championship while North Willamette Valley returns to league play Wednesday versus Aloha.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald