West Linn baseball team says its bond was key to its success
There were a lot of things left broken at the end of West Linn's Saturday loss in the Class 6A state baseball championship game.
First to fall was the Lions' incredible 21-game winning streak.
Simultaneously, West Linn saw the chance for its first state title since 1982 taken away by Clackamas' 5-1 win at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer, as well as its shot at redemption from a 2015 title-game loss to Sheldon.
Left untouched, however, was the bond that West Linn's players and coaches formed with each other over the course of this most extraordinary season.
While the Lions left Saturday's contest with second-place medals around their necks and the second-place trophy in their hands, their love and respect for each other remained only first rate.
"Overall, our team was really close," said senior pitcher/shortstop Tim Tawa, who batted .365 this year with a team-leading five home runs, 24 RBIs and a team-high 40 runs scored. "We loved every one of each other. It was a special group. I hadn't really been a part of that on a team for a while so it was special."
"I thought we all came together. I think we were all really close," said senior first baseman Jake Porter, who batted .400 this year with two homers, 33 RBIs and 29 runs. "We knew no one was better than the team and we played as a team."
The results of that bond were, frankly, nothing short of amazing. The Lions played their way to the No. 1 ranking in the state after posting a 27-5 season record, won the Three Rivers League by four games with a 16-1 record, stitched together that incredible 21-game winning streak and fell just a single game short of their ultimate goal.
After their Saturday loss to Clackamas, the Lions again and again referred to the importance — and strength — of their bond, even after suffering a defeat that prevented the team from winning a state championship.
"I'm going to remember the seniors and the bond that we all had together," said junior catcher Micah Gibson, who batted .289 this year with 22 RBIs and 13 runs scored. "Every weekend, we were doing something together, bowling or going out to dinner. It was really a good bond and it helped us through the tough games earlier in the season."
"We all hung out on the weekends. We all got along really well," Porter said. "We started doing stuff on the weekends and hanging out and I think that really helped. This year's team, definitely, we got along and that helped a lot."
According to junior Garrett Marioni, the team's right fielder and No. 4 hitter, Tawa and the team's seniors really set the tone for the Lions this year.
"I'm going to remember the leadership as a team, how Tim (Tawa) led us," said Marioni, who hit .340 this year with 21 RBIs and 25 runs scored. "After our first loss in league, we just turned everything around and went on that huge winning streak."
None of this, by the way, happened by accident. West Linn coach Joe Monahan and his players all came to understand just how important that trust in each other would be to their ultimate success.
"Compared to years past, this year's team was definitely the closest," Porter said. "It's not all about your talent, it's also about how bad you want it and how well you play together."
"I think this team just became a family and they really played for each other and for the betterment of the team, not individual stats," Monahan said. "We have a lot of great players, a lot of guys who accomplished a lot individually, but they always put the team first instead of their own accomplishments."