West Linn will be represented in the Cal Ripken 12-year-old World Series for the first time in 10 years after defeating Meridian of Idaho, 6-1, on Sunday to claim the Pacific Northwest Regional Tournament title in Whitefish, Montana. West Linn, which is 31-4 on the year, will travel to Ballparks of America in Branson, Missouri to compete for national and world championships from Aug. 3-10.
West Linn went 6-0 to win the competitive regional, utilizing the talents of everyone on the 12-player roster. The Lions won one game in extra innings, two games by one run and another in which they trailed by three runs midway through.
Coached by Jared Goff, Sean Sullivan, Don Gabel and Aaron Cornell, West Linn opened regional play on Wednesday, July 19, by edging Washington's Kennewick National, 6-5, in seven innings. Spencer Sullivan jump-started the offense with a home run — the first of three bombs he would deliver throughout the tourney — and Jordy Tawa got the win on the mound.
West Linn breezed to a 21-3 win the following day over Glendive of Montana. Ben Winjum had two three-run blasts to highlight the offense. Braylon Cornell went the distance on the mound and added a solo shot of his own.
West Linn took on Lynden in their third game of the regional on Friday, July 21, and jumped all over the Washington squad early, building an 11-2 lead behind a three-run homer from E.J. Goff. The Lions ran into trouble midway through but Tawa quieted Lynden's bats late in the 11-8 win.
Despite boasting a 3-0 record, tiebreaker rules meant that West Linn needed to beat the host team from Whitefish on Saturday to secure a spot in the semifinals. The Lions fell behind 3-0 early, rallied to tie at 3-3 on a Sullivan homerun and pushed a run across in the fifth to get the 4-3 win. Pitching — Earl Ingle threw four innings in relief to get the win — and defense from the up-the-middle combo of Max Wright and Tyson Smith contributed heavily to the win.
Sunday morning's semifinal saw West Linn fall behind, 3-0, to North Valley from Stevensville, Montana, but a long, line-drive homer from Drake Gabel started West Linn on the comeback trail. The Lions added three runs in the fourth, keyed by a Jake Holmes double and Wright single, and broke the game open with four runs in the fifth thanks to another clutch Wright hit. Tawa tossed three scoreless innings to pick up the win in relief and added two hits and an RBI.
West Linn then took on Meridian at 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon in the championship game. The Idaho squad got an unearned run in the top of the first against starter Drew Talavs, but West Linn responded with four runs in the bottom of the frame. While that was more than Talavs would need in a strong performance, West Linn added two more runs on a Jake Holmes solo shot and a Seve Gonzales RBI base knock.
The victory meant West Linn is World Series bound for the first time in 10 years.