AURORA, Ore. – The sun set Sunday on the Wild Wild West League with some good Knights.
And some pretty tough Pickles.
The West Linn Knights and Portland Pickles battled to the final out with the Knights coming out victorious in the championship game of the Wild Wild West League at North Marion High School.
“I don’t think you could have asked for a better game — 8 to 7, 12 hits to 11 hits,” said Lucas Gregory, a former Mountain View High and Clark College player who started at first base for the Pickles on Sunday. “It’s a good way to go out. Obviously, you don’t want to be on the losing end of things, but it was a good fight and I think we turned it on at the end.”
The summer college wood-bat league served as a replacement for the West Coast League, which had its season canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The league was founded by the Portland Pickles, a WCL team, and consisted of three other teams – the Knights, the Gresham GreyWolves and Portland Gherkins – made up of players from across the West Coast including several from Clark County.
Cooper Barnum, a recent Skyview High graduate, had planned to play this summer for the Ridgefield Raptors and was happy he got the chance to play for the Knights this summer.
“Coach (Brooke) Knight is awesome; I love him,” Barnum said. “The players have been great. Every guy is a great guy on this team, very supportive, and I Iove ‘em.”
The league debuted on July 11 with all games being played a North Marion High School, where COVID restrictions in Marion County allowed for gatherings of up to 250.
The Pickles took every precaution to keep everyone safe, from taking the temperature of everyone who entered the park to having staffers circulate through the facility with signs reminding people – patrons and players alike – to wear face coverings at all times.
“I think we did it the right way,” said Jon Ryan, Pickles co-owner and former Seahawks punter, in his post-game comments. “We took every precaution. We didn’t cut any corner anywhere. We had the fans here in a limited amount. I felt like they were safe when they were here. I feel like it was a real success.”
The league had just one hiccup, three days into its month-long season, when two players tested positive for COVID-19, leading to a five-day shutdown of play while the other players were tested.
When those tests came back negative, play resumed without a hitch.
It all culminated on Sunday, as the Knights forged a 4-1 lead early before the Pickles tied the game and later took a 5-4 lead in the seventh inning.
But the Knights responded with two in the bottom of the seventh to reclaim the lead. Taylor Holder hit a two-run homer for insurance the Knights would end up needing when the Pickles’ Zach Morgan hit his own two-run shot in the top of the ninth to make things interesting.
The Knights then closed out the 8-7 win and hoisted the trophy, sending players back to their colleges with some games under their belt.
“This is the first baseball I’ve played since the summer after my junior year” in high school, Barnum said. “So it’s been a while, but it was fun.”
Gregory, who went 2 for 3 with a walk on Sunday, got in a few games this spring during his sophomore season at Clark before the season was shut down. He will enroll this fall at Lewis-Clark State in Idaho to continue his college baseball career.
“The last month has been spent pretty much every day at the ballpark,” Gregory said. “It was fun getting to play against some quality players. It was a great time to get back into things not knowing what our fall is going to look like. We really appreciated everyone’s efforts to get us out here.”
Barnum leaves Thursday for Pullman to start his freshman year at Washington State. And he’ll leave with a smile.
“We beat the Pickles again, so that was fun,” Barnum said. “Go Knights!”