Southpaw sensation Paul Wilson threw a masterpiece and senior catcher Mason Utech broke open a one-run game with a two-out, three-run, fifth-inning homer in Lakeridge’s 4-0 home win over West Linn Tuesday afternoon.
Wilson, the son of former MLB hurler Trevor Wilson, went 6.2 innings and yielded just two hits, while walking two and hitting two. The Oregon State commit struck out 15 Lion hitters -- seven looking -- showing off a fastball that touched 98 miles per hour while mixing in a hammer curve ball that froze batters all game long.
“Their pitcher was a stud,” said Joe Monahan, West Linn’s ninth-year head coach. “He brought it tonight. We didn’t square up enough baseballs or score any runs. It’s tough to win when you don’t score.”
The win gave the Pacers (18-5; 13-3) control of the Three Rivers League race with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season. West Linn fell to 18-4 (10-3 in the TRL) with the loss. The teams resume their three-game series today at West Linn.
Shaky West Linn defense helped Lakeridge plate a run in the bottom of the second inning against junior right hander Drew Talavs, another Oregon State pitching recruit. Utech hit the first pitch he saw through the hole on the right side and moved to second when Alou Dechard walked on a 3-2 count. Gus Rogers then bunted right back to Talavs, who mishandled the ball. He was neither able to get the force at third nor record an out at first. With the bases loaded and no out, Beau Spiekerman was able to loft a fly ball to left deep enough to score the run. Talavs struck out the last two batters to minimize the damage. He finished with eight strike outs for the game, against just two walks.
The one run looked like it might be enough for Wilson, who struck out the side in the first and third innings. He fanned the first two batters he faced in the top of the fourth – five strike outs in a row and 10 for the game to that point – using a devastating fast ball/curve ball mix.
“He mostly throws about 90 percent fastballs against most teams,” Utech said. “But these guys are really, really good fastball hitters; so today we were probably 60-40 fastball to offspeed.”
“I was feeling it out there,” Wilson added. “I knew I had the best defense in the state behind my back. I knew if I threw strikes they were going to make plays for me and they did.”
Wilson ran into a little trouble with two outs in the top of the fourth. Junior Max Wright, who singled to lead off the second inning, drew a walk and was balked to second. That brought up left-handed batter Spencer Sullivan, who smoked a fastball that was ticketed for center field and would have tied the game.
“I threw a fastball and he basically hit it straight back at me harder than I threw it,” Wilson explained. “I just put my hand out. I almost caught it. My hand was ringing after that.”
The ball hit Wilson square in the middle of his pitching hand and bounded behind the mound. The 6-5 hurler got on it quickly and threw the ball to first, where it was dug out of the dirt by Rogers on a hero play to prevent the run from scoring.
Wilson was able to shake off the pain and remain in the game.
“He was tough enough to stay in there,” noted Lakeridge head coach Ray Pearson. “We’ll talk to him about that; make sure he doesn’t do it again.”
Lakeridge broke the game open with a two-out rally in the bottom of the fifth. Zach Johnson, a transfer from West Linn, hit a chopper up the middle that ticked off of Talavs’ glove. The speedy senior was able to beat SS Kace Naone’s throw to first for Lakeridge’s third hit of the game. Wilson then walked before Utech hit a 1-1 fastball over the fence in left-center for a three-run home run that extended the Pacer lead to 4-0.
“I was expecting fastball and I didn’t miss it,” Utech said of his second home run of the season. “That was our strategy: To hit fastballs because he has a good offspeed pitch.”
“Mason’s been grinding,” Pearson said. “He had a few games coming into this series where he didn’t hit the way he wanted to. He’s been putting in a lot of time hitting off the tee and doing some work and I think it paid off.”
A four-run deficit against a pitcher like Wilson was too much to overcome for West Linn with just two frames left. Naone ripped a one-out double to center in the top of the sixth, but he and Wright, who walked, were stranded when Sullivan waved at a curve for strike three, Wilson’s 13th of the game. Wilson struck out the only two batters he faced in the seventh before being lifted for freshman Calvin Gregory, who yielded a single to Jeremy Levasseur before getting Drake Gabel to ground out to end the game.
Wilson, a junior who’s expected to be a first-round selection in the MLB draft next July, finished with 15 strike outs in a dominating performance.
“He’s fun to catch,” Utech admitted. “He throws hard with a good offspeed. He stayed composed throughout the game. I’m super proud of him.”
“I think both pitchers threw extremely well,” Pearson said. “We expected Drew to come out and throw strikes. We put some timely hitting together and got people on base.”
Utech led the Lakeridge offense with two hits, two runs scored from his spot in the lineup (courtesy runner Jack Ulwelling scored the game’s first run) and three driven in. Spiekerman was 2-2 with a sac fly. The rest of the lineup was just 1-for-17 against Talavs, who gave up just five hits.
Wright finished 1-for-1 with two walks for West Linn, which had runners on base in every inning but the third, but could not convert.
The second game of the series will get underway at 5 p.m. this afternoon. It’s essentially must-win for West Linn, as a Lakeridge win in either of the two remaining games will clinch at least a tie for the TRL title.
“I think we’re going to come back tomorrow ready to play and even things up,” Monahan said.