For the second time in three games, a West Linn baseball player walked to the plate with a chance to beat Lake Oswego in extra innings.
And for the second time in as many tries, the Lions delivered.
Knotted 2-2 with No. 28 Lake Oswego in the bottom of the 10th inning on Friday night, top-ranked West Linn sent Jonathon Kelly to the plate. With the bases loaded and two outs, the sophomore lined a single to right field that plated Tim Tawa, won the game 3-2 and caused the West Linn dugout to stampede the field at West Linn High School once again.
"That was my first walk-off in high school. I just wanted to stay alive when I got down 0-2 and poke the ball somewhere — get it through a hole," Kelly said. "I was just trying to foul curveballs off, get a fastball and hit it. That's what I did."
The win, which gave the Lions a three-game sweep of the Lakers, was West Linn's 16th straight victory, capping their Three Rivers League record at 16-1 and their overall record to 22. Lake Oswego, meanwhile, dropped to 9-8 in league and 10-16 overall.
In a pitching matchup that featured two of the state's best arms in Tawa and Lake Oswego right-hander Jake Dukart, West Linn scored the game's first run in the first inning. Tawa reached base after being hit by pitch and later scored on a Jake Porter groundout, but Lake Oswego answered in the top of the second when first baseman Dawson Jaramillo homered to deep center field.
"The first pitch was high and inside and I took it," Jaramillo said. "On the next pitch, I knew (Tawa) was going to throw firm and he was going to throw in the zone. I knew I was going to get a fastball, and it was low and in the middle of the plate just like I like it. I got my hands down to it and let my bat do the rest."
The Lions challenged again in the bottom of the second when James Marshall reached base and later scored on a Lake Oswego throwing error to make it 2-1 for West Linn.
Both pitchers then settled down after that, though, as Tawa and Dukart cruised through the middle innings. But Lake Oswego's Matt Sebolsky singled to lead off the bottom half of the sixth, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a Sam Haney double to tie the score 2-2.
"We haven't seen a lot of velocity this year, so this week has been new for us," Jaramillo said of facing Tawa. "Guys were getting their timing down, and we got some good hits throughout the game. If you put balls in play, eventually they're going to fall."
The Lions, meanwhile, couldn't figure out Dukart all game. West Linn failed to record a hit until Porter broke up the no-hitter with a single in the bottom of the sixth. Garrett Maroni followed with a bunt single, but Dukart forced three straight outs to escape the threat unscathed.
Kelly said the Lions struggled with Dukart's mix of fastballs and off-speed pitches, but that it was good experience for the postseason.
"He has a good breaking ball and we just couldn't find him. He had something going on that we couldn't figure out," Kelly said. "It was definitely good because those are the types of guys we're going to see in the playoffs, guys that are firm throwers with good off-speed pitches."
Dukart tossed seven innings of three-hit baseball, allowing just one earned run, but four errors plagued the Lakers Friday night. Tawa managed 8 2/3 innings, relying on a West Linn defense that played error-free in 10 innings.
"When I was warming up, my arm felt better than it has in a while. I was excited to get on the mound," Tawa said. "But they hit the ball hard, I have to give them credit. My guys were just making good plays and getting outs. It was a complete team effort."
Right-hander Jackson Laurent threw the final 2 2/3 innings for the Lakers before Kelly's walk-off single in the eighth. Right-hander Rance Pittman got the win for the Lions, tossing 1 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball.
Despite the loss, Dukart said he was pleased with the way his team has played of late.
"It shows we can play with anyone. In the last two weeks, we've lost five games by two runs or less, and two of those by walk-offs, so it shows that our record doesn't really indicate how good we are," Dukart said. "Playoffs are a clean slate, so if we get hot and start swinging the bats better, we could run the table."
West Linn, meanwhile, hopes to ride the momentum of its 16-game winning streak all the way to a state championship.
"We're not resting on our laurels. We're working hard in practice every day, getting better as a team," Tawa said. "The key is to play our style, hit the ball hard, play good defense and pitch well in big situations."