Josh Johnson ran as fast he could to avoid his jubilant teammates.
Finally, in right field, Dalles Seufalemua tackled Johnson to the ground and a swarm of jubilant Columbia Gorge Hustler players followed for a celebratory dogpile.
Starting the bottom of the seventh inning down 7-2, the Columbia Gorge Hustlers battled back with a dramatic comeback to clinch a league title, as Baily Hajicek smacked a three-run triple to tie the score at 7-7, and after a walk to Michael Armstrong, Johnson executed a perfect RBI squeeze bunt, which plated Hajicek for the winning run in CG’s 8-7 win and two-game sweep over Hillsboro.
The victory not only clinched a league crown, but gave the Hustlers a No. 1 seed entering state action next week in North Bend.
“This win gives us a lot of confidence and it brings us closer, not only as a team, but a family,” Johnson said. “This will help us out, because we know we can play together and play hard when we need to and when it matters. We were able to come back with 110 percent and that is what we will need at state and what we showed tonight.”
In the inning, there were four walks, a hit batter, an RBI sacrifice fly by Dalles Seufalemua, a bases-loaded RBI walk to Conner Baughn, which scored Ben Nelson to inch the Hustlers to within a 7-4 deficit.
With the bases loaded and one out, Hajicek fell behind 0-2 in the count, eventually working to a full-count pitch.
On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Hajicek turned on a fastball and laced a flyball over the Hillsboro left fielder’s head to the fence to score Jose Gonzalez, Dominic Smith and Baughn.
“That at-bat was crazy. I cannot explain how I feel about it to be honest,” Hajicek said. “Their pitcher was too confident. He threw a fastball right down the middle and that is something you should never do as a pitcher, especially in a clutch situation. I pretty much just swung as hard as I could and tried to hit the ball far to score everyone. Thankfully it worked.”
Hajicek went 3 for 3 with a triple, a walk, a run scored and three RBIs to pace the Hustlers’ seven-hit, seven-walk attack.
Baughn was 1 for 2 with two walks, a run scored and two RBIs, Gonzalez posted a hit, a walk and a run scored, and Johnson finished 1 for 2 with an RBI.
Seufalemua went 1 for 4 with two RBIs, Nelson walked and scored two runs and both Jordan Wetmore and Austin Greene scored a run apiece.
Smith tossed two innings of relief to get the win, as he allowed one run on three hits with no walks and no strikeouts.
Before the second-game pandemonium, the Hustlers put themselves in position to secure their league crown in the opener with the pitching of Wetmore and an eight-run fourth to lock down a 10-0 mercy-ruled win.
In the bottom of the sixth inning with the Hustlers ahead by an 8-0 score, Smith drove in Gonzalez on an RBI sacrifice fly, and two batters later, Colton Baughn drew a walk-off RBI walk to score Seufalemua.
Both teams were scoreless for the first three and a half innings, until an RBI groundout by Hajicek scored Seufalemua, who made an acrobatic slide at home to avoid the tag.
Armstrong added an RBI single, Conner Baughn scored on an error, Armstrong crossed the plate on an error, Gonzalez pounded a two-run triple to centerfield, Seufalemua followed with an RBI double and Smith singled home Seufalemua to make it 8-0.
That was more than enough offense for Wetmore, who stranded five Hillsboro runners in scoring position through the first four innings, before finishing out the contest by retiring nine of the last 11 batters, four on strikeouts.
Wetmore tossed six innings of three-hit ball with one walk and nine strikeouts to earn the win on the mound.
“Jordan is just a horse out there. Whenever we are in a big game, he wants the ball,” Hustler head coach Steve Sugg said. “As a coaching staff, we know we can depend on Jordan to give us his best effort to give us a win. He was dominant and kept us close as long as we could, until we finally got our bats going in that fourth inning. This was his last game and he left a statement. It was just a great performance.”
In the first game, the Hustlers notched 12 hits, as Seufalemua paced the squad by going 2 for 3 with a hit by pitch, three runs scored and an RBI.
Smith was 2 for 4 with two RBIs, Gonzalez added a 2 for 4 effort with a double, a triple, two runs scored and two RBIs.
Armstrong had a hit, a walk, a run scored and an RBI, Hajicek added a hit and an RBI, Nelson tacked on a hit and two runs scored, Ben Schanno posted a hit and a walk and Colton Baughn walked, scored a run and had an RBI.
The Hustlers (27-12 overall) were in Newport this weekend for a tournament.
Opening ceremonies for state in North Bend are Tuesday, July 24 and pool play starts on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the Hustlers salvaged a split at Aloha, losing the opener, 9-4, and taking the nightcap, 7-3.
Entering the bottom of the fourth inning, Aloha racked up five runs to expand on its 3-2 lead and added a single run in the fifth frame to lead 9-2.
Dalles Seufalemua went 3 for 4 with two triples and two runs scored to pace the Hustlers’ six-hit effort.
Dominic Smith was 1 for 3 with a walk, a run scored and an RBI, Baily Hajicek added a hit and two walks, Austin Greene was 1 for 1 with a walk and a run scored and both Colton Baughn and Jose Gonzalez drove in a run each.
Josh Johnson gave up three runs on five hits with two walks and five strikeouts across two innings to get the loss.
Fueled by their first-game loss, the Hustlers scored two runs in the second, third and fourth innings to secure a 7-3 win.
Ben Nelson was 4 for 5 with two stolen bases and a run scored, Hajicek chipped in three hits, two runs scored and an RBI, and Gonzalez went 2 for 4 with an RBI.
Michael Armstrong notched a hit in three at-bats, two walks and scored a run, Greene ended up 1 for 1 with two walks, a sacrifice, a run scored and an RBI and Ben Schanno was 1 for 4 with an RBI.
On the mound, Gonzalez, CG’s starter, tossed four scoreless innings of two-hit ball with a walk and five strikeouts for the win.