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If there’s one thing you should learn from Canby baseball’s matchup against West Linn last week, it’s this: Never count them out.
Facing a top-10 team riding a hot winning streak into their series, the Cougars were no pushovers in their three games against the Lions; after a loss, the Cougars stormed back to win at home before losing a heartbreaker to conclude a hard-fought series.
Entering the game, West Linn (10-3, 5-1 Three Rivers League) seemed to be the easy favorite. Fresh off a dominant series against Lake Oswego that saw the Lions win two games 11-1 and outscore the Lakers 28-3, the No. 9 team in the state was cruising.
The Cougars (5-8, 2-4 TRL) had lost three of four, but still had picked up a massive win the previous week over Lakeridge.
The Cougars’ first game was dominated by pitching. Lion Drew Talavs game the Cougars fits, only allowing two hits on the game. Slowly but surely, West Linn inched away, scoring two runs in the second inning and one in the third in a quick 3-0 win. Joe Brauckmiller and Bryce Oliver were the two Cougars to tally a hit on the day.
Wednesday’s home looked to be more of the same for Canby, as a Spencer Sullivan RBI single on the third at-bat of the day pushed the Lions out to an early 1-0 lead.
The Lions had picked up two hits on those first three at-bats to jump ahead. They would add only two more hits during the remainder of the game. Starter Jason Noffsinger and closer Logan Robinson held down the fort defensively.
“Noff and Logan and our defense kept us in the ball game,” Cougar head coach J.J. Stolsig told the Current. “Both pitchers were able to mix speeds and throw strikes. That is a recipe for success. The pitching allowed us to hand around long enough for us to get something going in the 4th inning.”
In that fourth inning, with Canby still trailing 1-0 thanks to the defense, the offense struck. Three of the five hits on the day came in the fourth. First was Mikey Gibson, with a single down the middle.
Then was Kellan Oakes’ line-drive double, a ball that got the Cougs oh-so-close to a run. Gibson, racing around the plates, trying to tie the game up, was thrown out at home.
Then Clayton Langdale stepped up to the plate. Canby did not have to wait long for that elusive run. The 6-3 senior blasted a ball — his only hit of the series — that cleared the fence to give the Cougars a 2-1 lead they kept the remainder of the game.
Robinson’s pitching ensured that the Cougars handed the Lions their first league loss of the season.
In the third and final game of the series, it was Canby that jumped out to an early lead. However, just like the game before it, the team leading after one inning would not win.
The Cougars stormed out of the gate, scoring four runs in the first inning, mostly thanks to an Oliver three-run sac fly. After two Lion runs, Theo Netter kept the opponents at bay with an RBI triple to keep the Cougs up 5-2.
From there, though, the Lions seeped their way back into the game. One run here. An RBI Single there. The Lions took advantage of an astounding 10 walks to tie the game, 5-5, and work their way into scoring position.
Ryan VandenBrink’s grounder that just slipped by Oakes’ glove completed the Lions’ comeback and gave West Linn the 6-5 walk-off win. With their third loss of the season in final-play fashion, 38% of Canby’s losses have now come from walk-offs. Still, Stolsig knows his team won’t dwell on it.
“We have a resilient group that continues to work to get better,” he said. “Each game is the most important game. The boys know we can’t look back and think about the last one whether it was a win or a loss.”
He also knows that wins over upper echelon TRL teams in Lakeridge and West Linn will put the league on notice.
“We have a good squad. We can play with anyone, these last two weeks have proven that.” Stolsig said. “The other good thing is we haven’t even played our best baseball yet. We are getting better but still haven’t reached our peak.
The Cougars’ will have a week off from league play this week, facing the Pacific Conference’s Liberty Falcons and the Metro League’s Southridge Skyhawks on Tuesday and Wednesday. Their one home game of the week, against Liberty on Tuesday, is scheduled to begin at 4:15 p.m.
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