Clackamas 9-11 Little Leaguers earn trip to state tourney in Salem
Clackamas' 9-11-year-old Little League Baseball team kept its season alive the hard way -- through the consolation bracket.
After staving off elimination from district play with a 12-2 win over Southeast Portland on Tuesday, Clackamas turned around and overpowered Southeast Portland 14-4 in Wednesday's District 2 championship game at Clackamas' Riverside County Park.
After Brett Ronson's solo homer touched off a three-run third inning that broke a 1-1 tie, Clackamas tacked on six runs in the fourth and four more runs in the fifth, clinching a berth in the state tournament beginning Saturday at Holland Youth Park in Salem.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy," Clackamas manager Tod Ronson said. "We had to go get it done, and our kids got it done.
"This team really bought into playing for the moment and came out on top. I couldn't be more proud of them. It's a quality group of kids that are talented and motivated. I'm looking forward to the state tournament and having some fun there."
Tied at 1-1 in the third, Brett Ronson drove a 0-1 pitch from Southeast Portland starter Madox Schroeder over the fence in straightaway center to give Clackamas the lead.
"Brett has been swinging the bat real well in this tournament," Tod Ronson said. "I was just happy for him, because it kind of loosened things up for us and we were able to build on it."
After Malachi Ahmed walked, Christopher McDonnell hit an RBI-double to left, and then McDonnell came around to score on an error to push Clackamas' lead to 4-1.
In the fourth, Clackamas send 10 batters to the plate and scored six runs on five hits, with Andre Miller's RBI-triple and Nicholas Brighouse's two-run double the biggest blows in the inning.
Southeast Portland rallied in the fifth when Sawyer Balderson stepped up with two outs and the bases loaded and drove a pitch over the left-field fence on a bounce for a ground-rule double, scoring Joseph Bornstein and Silas Leo to cut Clackamas' lead to 10-4.
Clackamas then put the game out of reach in the bottom of the fifth, sealing the decision on Wade Hagey's two-out, bases-loaded single to left.
"Obviously, we've got good athletes and we've got a tough league that the kids played in all season," Tod Ronson said. "We inter-leagued with Southeast, and they've got a tough league, so the competition was at a pretty high level for this age group.
"All of a sudden, an All-Star team is selected, and they're all good players, but they've never played together, so what this team was going to look like was unknown. We had 28 days of practice without a game, and to the kids' credit, they bought into everything that we were trying to teach."
Clackamas opened the tournament with a 13-3 win over Reynolds, and then dropped an 8-7 decision to Southeast Portland in the semifinals to drop into the consolation bracket.
In Monday's elimination game, Clackamas downed Reynolds 17-6, and then knocked off Southeast Portland 12-2 Tuesday, setting the stage for Wednesday's winner-take-all final.
Clackamas is scheduled to open the state tournament against Lake Oswego in a 2:30 p.m. game Saturday in Salem.
"That's just what every youth athlete needs, is just a little bit longer season, which carries into the following seasons," Tod Ronson said. "That's the benefit of getting to the next level is we get a chance at another six days of ball, potentially. That's good stuff."