Mountain View’s path to playing for a 3A Greater St. Helens League baseball title was a bumpy ride in the beginning, and even during parts of Wednesday’s deciding game against Heritage.
How the Thunder navigated through it required a complete team effort from start to finish.
While deadlocked in a 1-1 tie over four innings, Mountain View broke through for six runs in the fifth inning to claim a 7-1 win over Heritage at Union High School.
Worst-case scenario, Mountain View (12-5, 10-2) has a share of the league title and could still win it outright if second-place Kelso (10-6, 8-2) falters in either of its two remaining league games against Prairie on Friday and Monday.
Mountain View began the season with two of its top three options on the mound, Casen Reed and Jacob Martin, unable to pitch while nursing injuries. That left Jayden Rippelmeyer as the top ace while the team turned to the likes of Joe Wilcox, Davis Wolfley and Ethan Ring.
The Thunder started 2-3, but have since won nine of their last 10 games.
“I’m really proud of my boys, I’m really proud of what we’ve done,” Rippelmeyer said. “We started off in a kind of sticky situation with people being hurt, losing some key players last year. But we’re scrapping things together and doing what we can do as a team in sticking together, doing things for each other, to earn what we’ve accomplished.”
Rippelmeyer limited Heritage to two hits and one earned run while striking out seven in 6.2 innings before Ring came on to get the final out in the seventh inning.
“We just grinded, man,” Martin said. “A lot of people who I never would’ve thought of would contribute have contributed a big part. Ethan Ring being one of our best relief pitchers. Obviously Rip coming in, dominating every game. Even when we don’t hit the ball a lot, we find ways to score runs and win games, which has been really big for us. It’s a whole team effort, all the way from our coaches all the way down to our last JV player.”
Heritage (3-10, 0-10) scored first on a Daniel Kehler solo home run in the opening frame. Mountain View’s leadoff hitter JJ Thompson got on base with a single, then scored on a Heritage throwing error as he attempted to steal third base.
In the latest turn for the Thunder, Thompson exited with an injury and was replaced by Wolfley for the remainder of the game.
Frustrations began to mount for the Thunder in three scoreless innings to follow while both starting pitchers, Rippelmeyer and Heritage’s Ethan Scott, and their defenses gave up few scoring opportunities.
But the tone shifted in the bottom of the fifth when Mountain View’s Brady Sale led off with a double. Martin followed with a sacrifice fly to put the Thunder up 2-1. Then, after a pair of bases-loaded walks, Mitch Johnson found a gap in left center for a three-run double, effectively sealing a league title.
“Kids have found ways to win games,” Mountain View head coach Aaron Coiteux said. “We didn’t play our best today, by any means, but we found a way.”
Mountain View hardly celebrated after the game because as Rippelmeyer said, channeling the Mamba Mentality, “the job’s not finished.”
They’ll wrap up the regular season with a tune-up game on Tuesday against Camas, before opening the Class 3A bi-districts May 7.
“We’re going to be an experienced team in the playoffs and we’re going to be a scary team to play,” Martin said, “because we’re going to make the right plays, play team baseball and sneak out the close games.”
MOUNTAIN VIEW 7, HERITAGE 1
Heritage 100 000 0—1 2 2
Mt. View 100 060 x—7 5 0
Pitching — Ethan Scott 4.2 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 3 K, 5 BB, loss; Colby Whisenhunt 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 K, 1 BB. Highlights — Daniel Kehler 1-3, RBI, HR; Rylan Taylor 1-2.
Pitching — Jayden Rippelmeyer 6.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 7 K, 2 BB, win; Ethan Ring 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 K, 0 BB. Highlights — JJ Thompspon 1-1, run; Davis Wolfley run; Jacob Martin RBI; Jayden Rippelmeyer 1-1, run, RBI; Casen Reed run; Jett Hamilton run, RBI; Mitch Johnson 1-3, 3 RBI, 2B; Brady Sale 1-3, 2B.