The Corvallis Knights saw the perfect scenario play out Sunday night.
They had their team ace, Tevita Gerber, taking the mound in the biggest and final game of the season. They also watched their high-powered offense return a day after falling short in the team’s first opportunity to clinch a fourth straight West Coast League baseball title.
The Knights got more than enough from Gerber, Abbott Haffar in relief and the bats, defeating Victoria 11-1 at Goss Stadium to claim the team’s seventh overall championship in the collegiate wood bat summer league.
Gerber, a Dixie State left-hander who led the WCL with nine wins, called it “extremely exciting” to take the ball with the season on the line.
Gerber pitched into the seventh inning, allowing four hits, one earned run and two walks with eight strikeouts. He finished with 36 combined strikeouts in his last four games of the summer.
“To be able to give our team a chance and go out there today was an unbelievable experience and I couldn’t be more grateful for it,” Gerber said.
A dogpile just behind the mound ensued after second baseman Jake Harvey saw Tanner Haney’s pop up fall into his glove.
The Knights (54-14) took the lead for good with three runs in the bottom of the first inning. They had 12 hits in all with five going for extra bases, including a home run from Oregon State’s Harvey.
Victoria (45-22), which set league regular-season records for most runs scored and home runs, was held to four hits, all singles.
Gerber exited after allowing a leadoff single in the seventh inning. He acknowledged the home crowd’s applause with a couple taps to his glove as he headed to the dugout.
“He’s a warrior and he wanted the ball. We knew he was going to give us everything he had in there,” Knights head coach Brooke Knight said, adding that Gerber was pitching on a little shorter rest than usual. “We had Abbott behind him, and that’s what we hoped.”
Haffar, a UC Riverside righty, pitched 2⅔ hitless and scoreless innings. Linfield lefty Colton Meyer got the final out.
Before the ninth, Haffar asked that Meyer, whose mound time was limited this summer, get that chance.
“That guy has been unselfish the whole year,” Haffar said of Meyer. “He deserved it more than anyone. I love that guy to death.”
Added Knight: “Abbott knew it was his to finish. They love and respect each other. Colton didn’t have a lot of opportunities. That was pretty special.”
Gerber worked around a walk and a hit batter to start the game to get a scoreless first half-inning of the game. He picked a runner off second base then struck out two batters.
The Knights used that momentum for a two-out rally in the bottom half.
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Corvallis loaded the bases with two outs with a hit batter and two walks. Andy Atwood broke quickly from third base and stole home before Victoria catcher MacGregor Sharpe could apply the tag after a Dakota Hawkins 1-1 pitch.
Michael Curialle, at the plate on that play, then delivered a two-run single through the right side to make it 3-0.
Corvallis had a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. The Knights, who beat Walla Walla in three games in the divisional round, traveled nearly 1,500 miles in five days leading up to Game 2 of the championship series. That included a bus ride to Victoria on Friday for the championship opener that night then heading back the next morning for the second game at Goss.
“We’ve been hot all summer offensively,” Curialle said of the team’s confidence that the offense would return after Saturday’s 5-2 loss in which the Knights were held to five hits and were scoreless for the final eight innings.
“I think we were just a little tired yesterday, 20 hours of traveling. But we got it going tonight again and did good things.”
Briley Knight, the coach’s son, who had two hits and knocked in a run, said his team was more excited Sunday than Saturday because of the inevitable finality of the situation.
“We got the job done and I couldn’t be happier right now,” he said.
The HarbourCats came right back in the second inning, again getting their first two batters on base. But Gerber and the Knights again had an answer.
After a walk and single, a sacrifice bunt advanced both runners before Gerber got another strikeout. Corvallis shortstop Brooks Lee then ran down a grounder behind second base, spun and threw to first just in time to get Sharpe for the final out.
Harvey hustled out a one-out drive to center field for a double. Atwood’s two-out single to center made it 4-0.
A double and single put Victoria’s first two batters on one more time in the third. Gerber limited the damage from there, as the HarbourCats got one run on a sacrifice fly.
The visitors got just two runners on base over the final six innings.
Corvallis came back with two runs in its half of the third on Curialle’s RBI double and balk called on Victoria reliever Tyler Hilton to lead 6-1.
The Knights added one more in the sixth, two in the seventh and two in the eighth.
The Knights won previous championships in 2008 (versus Wenatchee), 2011 (Walla Walla), 2016 (Bellingham), 2017 (Victoria) and 2018 (Kelowna). Corvallis also has two runner-up finishes, to Moses Lake in 2007 and Wenatchee in 2009.
Victoria, in its seventh year in the league, was making its second championship series appearance.
Corvallis won Friday’s series opener 14-8 at Victoria with the help of a seven-run fourth innings. The Knights got home runs from Jake Holcroft, Briley Knight, Lee and Zack Moeller.