West Linn baseball beats upstart McNary, continues chase of second straight state crown.
The Lions were supposed to win.
They were determined to win.
And the West Linn baseball team made darn sure that it did win on Friday, May 26, racking up a four-run lead and rolling to a 4-1 victory over McNary in the Class 6A state quarterfinals on Friday, May 26, at West Linn High School.
The Lions built their win on timely hitting in the first, third and fifth innings, and a solid outing on the mound by junior Blake Crawford (six innings pitched, allowing one run on three hits and four walks while striking out nine) and Gabe Howard (no runs on two hits and no walks while striking out two).
“Blake Crawford went six strong innings, giving up just one run and three hits,” said West Linn coach Joe Monahan. “(And) Gabe Howard closed it out in the seventh to get the save.”
With the win, the top-ranked Lions’ eighth straight, West Linn improved to 24-6 overall after winning the Three Rivers League title. Next up, the Lions will host No. 4 Lake Oswego (a 3-2 winner over No. 5 Mountainside on Friday) in the state semifinals at 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 30.
No. 25 McNary, meanwhile, saw its five-game winning streak snapped and ended its season at 10-17 overall after placing third in the Central Valley Conference.
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After Crawford threw a scoreless first inning (allowing just a two-out walk), the Lions broke through for a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the frame. Senior Drake Gabel opened the Lions’ first at-bat with a double to right, took third on a passed ball and scored on junior Ryan VandenBrink’s sacrifice fly to left.
After two more scoreless McNary at-bats —Crawford stranded one runner in the second and pitched a 1-2-3 third — the Lions boosted their lead to 3-0 with a two-run third. Gabel kicked things off with a walk, moved to third when junior Danny Wideman doubled to left and scored on senior Jake Holmes’ sacrifice fly to center. Wideman then came home to make it 3-0 when McNary couldn’t handle Baron Naone’s ground ball.
West Linn then pushed its lead to 4-0 in the fifth when senior Jackson Curdy hit a one-out single to right, senior pinch runner Aiden Duea moved to second on a McNary error, took third on an out and scored when junior Mitchell Rowe doubled to center.
McNary notched its lone run in the top of the sixth to close within 4-1, getting back-to-back walks off Crawford and scoring senior Noah Fischer on the back end of a double steal.
Howard came on in relief in the seventh and gave up back-to-back singles with one out, but then bore down to strike out the final two Celtics’ batters to end the game.
For the game, Curdy went 2 for 3 at the plate, Gabel was 1 for 1 with two walks and two runs scored, while VandenBrink, Holmes and Rowe finished with one RBI each. Sophomore Jordan Araiza led McNary by going 2 for 3 at the plate.