By Jeremy McDonald
KLAMATH FALLS, Ore.– There’s no easy teams left at this point in the season. You have to be tuned in, every pitch and every inning in order to advance.
With the American Legion Triple-A State Tournament kicking off Saturday at Kiger Stadium in Southern Oregon, Post 20 held off a late charge by Willamette Valley to advance to the second round of the State Playoffs with a 4-2 victory Saturday afternoon.
The Titans threatened in the second inning to score, Derek Maiben halted that. Willamette Valley loaded up the bases in the third with one out on Jaret Stewart, but a groundball to the incoming Western Oregon University sophomore resulted in the 1-2-3 double play to keep the then 3-0 lead in tact.
“It was good. I was kind of struggling, so to get those couple of outs with the bases loaded was huge and give the team some energy and momentum to hit and score some runs,” said Stewart.
“Just zone up more. I was throwing a lot of wild pitches and raising up on my pitches. The goal was to stay below 84 and I got to 79 in five (innings), which is a good amount but the next time I’ll be able to pitch is the Championship game and I just need to zone up and be better.”
Stewart pitched five innings, throwing only 79-pitches to ensure that if the Dirtbags get to Wednesday’s finale that they can use the Dallas-Graduate to start the game as his offense plated a fourth run off a Noah Juarez sacrifice hit in the bottom half of the fourth.
Juarez drove in two runs in the State opener, to be able to stay focused and within themselves during that crucial first game of the tournament was huge with the defense holding Willamette Valley to goose-eggs into the seventh inning in the runs column.
“It was something we talked about coming into the tournament was staying locked in. Staying present the whole seven innings, all throughout the tournament and being ready to go from the very first pitch,” said Juarez. “If your not ready from the very first pitch, you’re already defeated.”
Four runs on ten hits usually is good enough. Ten hits usually wins you ball-games pointed out Head Coach James Leach after the game, but the Titans put a scare on the Post 20 squad by plating two runs in the seventh inning before the Dirtbags got out of the jam with the win intact without having to pick up their bats again.
“Just clean up the baserunning a little bit and be better on dirtballs reads. Balls in the dirt and be able to take those extra base hits and being smart on the base paths,” said Juarez of their bats entering Sunday’s game.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald