The 2017 Firecracker Classic may not have started the way Lakeridge wanted it to, but the Pacers made sure it ended with a bang.
The Lakeridge baseball team lost its first two games in the tournament — sponsored by Lake Oswego's PrimeLending — by a combined 15-1 margin, but steadied itself, came back strong and closed out the 16-team event at Lakeridge High School with two straight victories.
"The kids were really hyped up to play well (after the slow start)," said Lakeridge coach Marco Tavera. "But learning how to host a tournament and play in it is tough. It's something you need to learn how to do."
The Pacers opened the tournament with a 2-0 loss to Columbia River on June 29, then suffered a 12-1 five-inning drubbing at the hands of Sunset in Friday's second round. Undeterred, Lakeridge came back strong on Saturday with an 8-3 victory over Central Catholic, and capped its tournament with an 8-0 win over Lower Columbia on Sunday.
"We talked about playing for each other, and then we came out and hit the ball against Central Catholic," Tavera said. "The last two days were totally different from the first two days. That was huge for us."
Taking ownership of their results played a key role in the Pacers' turnaround in the Firecracker Classic.
"I think just everyone needs to emerge as a leader on this team," said infielder Teddy Kuhn. "If everyone's a leader on this team, then there will be successful results."
Columbia River 2, Lakeridge 0
Lakeridge faced a buzz saw in its opener, with Columbia River pitchers no-hitting the Pacers, striking out 15 and allowing just three baserunners all game.
On its side of the ledger, Columbia River scored both of its runs in the top of the first inning, with Koben Jamison and Nick Nygard reaching base on an error and a walk, then scoring later on hits by Parker McNeil and Kade Gerlack.
Sunset 12, Lakeridge 1 (5 innings)
Things got worse before they got better, too, with Sunset dropping four runs on the Pacers in the top of the first inning, two more in the second, four more in the third and yet two more in the fifth to win in five innings.
"They came out and hit the ball," said designated hitter/pitcher Riley Wall, who had one of his team's four hits and also helped slow Sunset's offense mid-game. "We are very close to being very good, it's just the little things that are keeping us very far from being very good."
The Apollos got a 3 for 4 day from third baseman Sam Winter, along with four RBIs and two runs scored, while pitcher Aaron Krause limited the Apollos to one run on four hits, three walks and two hit batters while striking out five.
The Pacers' lone run came when Tristin Bunkers walked in the second and scored one batter later on a Kuhn single to right.
"I felt pretty good," Kuhn said. "I saw his fastball early and caught on to that and I swung with all my might."
Lakeridge 8, Central Catholic 3
Once the Pacers got to the weekend, however, the Pacers found themselves. The pushed across four runs in the second inning against Central Catholic, then added single runs in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth to pull away.
Hayden Moore went 3 for 4 for Lakeridge with one run, Jacob Groman kicked off the four-run second frame with a double, and the Pacers capitalized big-time on a spate of Rams' errors.
Lakeridge 8, Lower Columbia 0
Lakeridge saved its best for last on Sunday, closing out its home tournament with a dominant 8-0 win over Lower Columbia.
The Pacers jumped out in front with two runs in the bottom of the first, poured across four more in the second, one in the third and one in the sixth.
Colin Hardy kicked off the first with a single, Hayden Moore followed with a double and both scored on Hunter Paulson's single. In the second, the Pacers got a walk from Harrison Brown, back-to-back singles from Jose Velez and Hardy, and later, another walk to Wall and singles by Paulson and Bryce Damas to make it 6-0.