KEIZER — Weston-McEwen waited since 1985 for a baseball postseason. The TigerScots will have to wait a little longer for their first state championship.
The TigerScots couldn’t overcome a pair of horrendous innings despite an early lead as the Kennedy Trojans rallied for a 10-4 victory at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer. The win Friday gave the Trojans (27-4) their first Class 2A/1A State Championship.
Leading 3-0 after three innings, the TigerScots (22-5) came unhinged. Special District 6 player of the year Dallas Reich was dealing on the pitcher’s mound, allowing only two hits and striking out three. No Trojan had advanced past second base at the time.
“I just wasn’t on my game; I just couldn’t find it,” said Reich, who was 12-1 before the championship contest, his only loss coming against Kennedy. “It’s just one of those things, you pitch a great first three innings and then the next inning you come out and you’re just not there. Your arm isn’t there. I just honestly don’t know.”
The inning could have ended much worse for Weston-McEwen if it weren’t for left fielder KJ White. After all five runs had scored with two outs, Ty Sawyer skied a ball to left-center field for Kennedy. With runners on first and second base, a gapper would have pushed two more runs across.
But White thrust out his glove hand and came down with the ball while running full speed toward the wall.
“I just threw my glove up and by chance I actually caught it,” White said of the lunge. “(Center fielder) Jared Bond really congratulated me, gave me a big old victory hug even though we were still down.”
The score was 5-3 then, but things got worse in the fifth when another error and then a walk put two men on base to start the frame. Reich’s day was over. From there, the Special District 2 champion Trojans started hammering the ball.
“We played these guys early in the season and we’d seen this guy already,” Kennedy’s Franky Rodriguez said of Reich and the Trojan’s 13-3 victory over Weston-McEwen in March at the Irrigon Spring Break Bash. “We knew if he started to struggle that he was going to struggle the rest of the game. We were up there swinging it, we stuck in there and if he had stayed in there the whole game we would have kept swinging.”
Rodriguez swung a mean bat for the Trojans, hitting a triple and two RBIs as well as pitching a complete game on 119 pitches with nine strikeouts.
Nick Lively came on in relief for Reich but couldn’t affix the bandage to Weston-McEwen’s wound. Kennedy would lead 9-3 after the fifth inning.
All seven runs against Reich were unearned.
Three Trojan runs in the fifth inning came on failed pickoff attempts with two outs. Sam Moreno and Blake Traeger scored from second and third when the ball popped out of first baseman Jerad Croswell’s glove while applying a tag. Rodriguez came in from third later that inning when another Lively attempt turned into a balk.
“We were actually trying to signal earlier for pickoff attempts,” TigerScots coach T.J. Haguewood said. “That first one was just one of those freak plays where he makes the tag and just loses the baseball, can’t find the baseball. I haven’t seen a pickoff attempt do that before.”
The beginning of this game gave no indication of its eventual outcome. The TigerScots attacked Rodriguez, who said he had issues adjusting to the height of the mound at the ballpark, home of the single-A Salem-Kezier Volcanoes, an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.
Catcher Elliot Salter led off the home half of the first with a triple to deep right, just over the head of outfielder Wyatt Rodriguez. Calvin Thacker would follow with a run-scoring single and then Reich would move him along to third with a single of his own. After Bond walked to load the bases, Lively squared up a 0-1 pitch and laced it into right field for two RBIs.
The TigerScots would leave the bases loaded and wouldn’t score again until the fourth inning.
“That’s always our approach at the plate, being aggressive,” Salter said. “But it’s tough when you’re not hitting the ball hard and the pitcher gets more and more confident.”
Salter would finish with two hits, adding an infield single in the second inning. Lance Thacker was the only other batter with two hits in the game for Weston-McEwen.
The TigerScots will lose the bulk of their starters for next season. Five from Friday’s lineup will move on with graduation and six total seniors made up this spring’s team.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.