Sandy stuns league rival Sherwood
Mitchell Lovely drives in three runs to lead Pioneers past Bowmen 6-3 in 5A semis
SHERWOOD Sandy second baseman Mitchell Lovely was one of the few hitters in the Northwest Oregon Conference to have any semblance of success against Sherwood ace Riley Moore during the regular season. In the biggest game in Sandy baseball history, Lovely stepped up and bested the all-state hurler again.
In Tuesdays 5A semifinal at Sherwood, Lovely went 3-for-3 with two huge doubles and three runs batted in to lead the Pioneers to a 6-3 victory and their first-ever trip to the state championship game.
The game figured to be an epic pitchers duel as Moore and Sandy pitcher Carson Dwyre duked it out on the mound, and it fit the bill for four innings. Both teams got a runner on base with less than two outs in each of the first four frames, but the elite throwers from Sherwood and Sandy worked out of trouble every time. In the top of the fifth, Lovely and the Pioneers drew first blood.
Sandy designated hitter Rhett Schilperoort led off the inning with a clean single. Two batters later, Lovely stepped in. With a 2-0 count, Sandy coach Rick Martin went with a hunch and put on the hit-and-run, and it could not have been executed more perfectly.
He had a couple hits against Riley the last time we played them, so I knew he saw him well, Martin said. I thought Riley was going to come with it and we let Mitchell loose.
Schilperoort broke for second as soon as Moore started home and Lovely smacked a fastball on the outside corner over the first basemans head. The ball landed about a foot inside the foul line and rolled into the corner. Because Schilperoort was running on the pitch, he was able to score standing up while Lovely trotted into second.
I was nervous. I thought he was coming with a slider, Lovely said. He threw it in the zone and I did what I could with it. Against him, you just have to go up there with confidence.
The RBI-double did something to the Pioneers. Prior to the monumentally-clutch hit, Sandy was focused and in the game, but looked like a team just trying to stay even. The tie-breaking hit-and-run morphed the Pioneers and they suddenly looked like they truly believed they were the better team.
That boosted everything, Dwyre said. Everybody was fired up and we had all the confidence in the world at that point.
In the two regular-season meetings against the Bowmen, Sandy never even got a sniff of the lead. Once the Pioneers had the lead in the game that really mattered, they were going to do anything to hold onto it.
Dwyre got his second wind when his mates gave him the advantage and he set down the Bowmen in order in the bottom of the fifth. In the top of the sixth, Dwyre and the Pioneers broke it open.
Kyle Stipe chased Moore from the game without delay with a leadoff single. After new pitcher Adley Rutschman struck out the first hitter he faced, Austin Carson laid down a bunt. Rutschman fielded it and threw it away, giving Sandy runners on the corners with one out. Dwyre and Schilperoort then delivered back-to-back run-scoring singles to make it a 3-0 game.
With two outs, Lovely was due back up, and he came through in a big way again. He found a pitch he liked and lifted a deep fly ball over the head of Sherwood right fielder Nathan Christler. Dwyre and Schilperoort both scored and Lovely had his second double of the contest.
Sherwood earned its first run in its half of the sixth, but Sandy answered with one in the top of the seventh to make it 6-1. The Bowmen scratched out a few hits in the bottom of the seventh and pulled to within three runs with two outs, but Dwyre struck out No. 4 hitter Travis Kotowski to seal the win.
There at the end, we had to tell ourselves to stay composed – a lot – because we were pretty excited, Lovely said. Carson was composed on the mound for us. We won it with him. We won it with hits. We won it with passion.
View a photo gallery from the semifinals at parkerlee.exposuremanager.com.