KEIZER — The Weston-McEwen TigerScots flirted with Lady Destiny during their state playoff run, using three come-from-behind wins to reach the program’s second title game ever.

It looked like they would make things official on Friday at Volcanoes Stadium as the TigerScots mounted yet another thrilling comeback against Monroe.

But destiny proved a fickle mistress, and directed her affections toward seldom-used sophomore pinch-hitter Zach Gwillim.

After the TigerScots rallied to tie the score in the top of the seventh inning, Gwillim crushed their title hopes with his first home run of the season  — giving Monroe the 2-1 walk-off win and its second state title in as many tries. Their other title came in 1991.

Gwillim made solid contact on the offering from Weston-McEwen reliever Lance Thacker, but had no idea the ball had cleared the left-field fence until his first-base coach told him to keep running.

“I thought I just popped up and I ran as hard as I could to first base and coach said I hit it out and I was like, ‘What?’” Gwillim said.

He said he couldn’t have imagined such an outcome when arrived at the stadium.

“I haven’t been playing much varsity,” the right-handed hitter said. “Coach just gave me an opportunity to play.”

Before Gwillim stole the spotlight, Monroe senior pitcher Austin Crowson was easily the story of the game.

The 6-foot-3 southpaw had a shutout going into the seventh inning and retired the TigerScots in order in the first, third and sixth innings. He struck out 11 and walked one while giving up just four hits and no earned runs. He and needed 102 pitches to finish his second-straight complete game.

“The last three pitchers we faced were all first-team state pitchers,” said Weston-McEwen coach T.J. Haguewood. “We’ve battled every game”

TigerScots starting pitcher Tyler “Chuck” Simmons got the TigerScots’ first hit in the second inning, then was intentionally walked following Jerad Croswell’s double in the fourth.

It wasn’t until the seventh that the TigerScots were able to put a run across the plate, though.

Senior catcher Cedric Hall, who also threw out two Monroe baserunners on the day, led the TigerScots off in the seventh with a bloop to shallow center field for his first hit of the game.

“I was a little worried about the shortstop being an athlete (and making the catch),” said Hall, who had grounded out and struck out in his previous at-bats. “I had just been swinging at bad pitches ... and he gave me a ball to hit and I took advantage.”

Next up was Simmons, who hit a hard grounder to third base that Monroe’s Kaleb Ballard (2 for 2) lunged at to make a nice grab. Looking to turn two, Ballard fired to second base, but was wide to the inside of the bag as Hall disrupted the covering second baseman with his slide.

The ball went into right field, where Kyle Bateman was quick on the backup. However, when Monroe wasn’t sure what to do with the ball after that, Haguewood took advantage of the confusion and waved Hall home.

He scored without a throw.

“I thought I was going to be out for a minute but (Ballard) made a bad toss and I was able to keep my momentum and round second,” Hall said. “Our coach T.J., coming to third he told me to go so I just followed him.”

“One of things, here at (Volcanoes Stadium) you can’t hear anything with the highway right there,” Haguewood said. “I kind picked up on what the guy was doing and he didn’t really know where to throw the ball, so I just kept sending (Hall) and Cedric never broke stride.”

Monroe squashed the rally, though, when Crowson took a bunt back up the middle and threw to third to get Simmons for the first out.

Simmons beat the throw to the bag, but slid a little farther than he expected on the hard clay-mix infield.

“I thought I got back in there, but he got the tag,” Simmons said.

“It was a great slide,” Haguewood said. “(The field) was just hard as a rock and he kept on sliding past (the base).”

A strikeout and fly out quickly ended the TigerScots’ final at-bat. Senior Dustin DeDios had their other hit in the game on a single in the fifth inning.

Monroe scored its first run in the second inning to put a blemish on the otherwise solid start from Simmons, who lasted 5 1/3 innings while striking out eight, walking none and allowing one unearned run off three hits.

Senior Ben Renshaw started the scoring sequence with a one-out single, then went to second on a passed ball. He then scored when Thacker’s throw from shortstop tipped off the end of the extended glove of first baseman Croswell as they tried to throw out Zach Hollenbeck.

Weston-McEwen fell just short of a state title for the second time in three season, which still marks the most successful span in the program’s history. The TigerScots completed the team’s first-ever undefeated league championship this year and earned the district title as well.

“We accomplished a lot throughout the years, and it just sucks to be second, but oh well. We got here when nobody thought we could,” Hall said.

“I can’t be more proud of the boys and what they’ve accomplished this year,” Haguewood said. “It’s hard to lose the game on a game-winning home run but our boys are going to hold their heads high. We battled hard all year.”

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R H E

WM 000 000 1 — 1 4 3

MHS 010 000 1 — 2 4 1

Tyler Simmons, Lance Thacker (5) and Cedric Hall. Austin Crowson and Tielar Murray. W — Crowson. L  — Thacker.

2B — Jerad Croswell (WM). HR — Zach Gwillim (MHS).

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Contact Matt Entrup at mentrup@eastoregonian.com or (541) 966-0838.

              

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