Willamette Valley (OR) 18+ ‘A’ Division
Gamecocks 8, Salem Athletics 7
Back Row L-R: Jerris Van Hess, Alex Donahue, Nathan Etheridge, Eric Knutsen, Chad Franke, Alex Lavery, Erik Zink, Jacob Gries. Front Row L-R: LouCarr, Steven Frey, Eric Gantenbien, Derek Aldrich, Ross Knutsen, Cody Schneider
Submitted by James Shier, Gamecock manager
The 2014 Willamette Valley Gamecocks won their fourth League Championship and third in a row with a 8-7 victory over the Salem Athletics! However this year was by far the most difficult for the four time champions. We had an overall record of 23-2, however both loses, one in the regular season and one in the double elimination tournament came against our rivals over the past few season the Salem Athletics, the same team we beat last season to win our second of back to back championships. The championship games this year were phenomenal. Game one went extra innings as both starters threw eight innings and were locked in a 3-3 tie. With two outs in the top of the eighth our team MVP Jacob Gries hit a solo home run to dead center, his fourth of the season to give the Gamecocks the lead. Jerris Van Hess the ACE of our team over the past five seasons, then completed the game by retiring the side in order for his 10th win of the season!
That win forced a second game to decide the eventual league champions. Once again both teams played hard and were deadlocked going into extra innings. The Gamecocks closer got three outs in the eighth to retire the Athletics and then in the bottom of the eighth, with two outs once again, Jacob Gries hit a solo home run to dead center, this time a walk-off in perhaps the most dramatic WVMBL game ever. That was Jacob’s fifth home run of the season. He also lead our team in runs scored, RBI’s, outfield assists and hit .491 on the season. We couldn’t have won it in anymore of a dramatic fashion. Jacob Gries had been our heart and soul all year. No one worked harder or played the game with more fire. He was only one of three players not to play college ball but has worked his tail off over the past three season becoming a starter in the middle of last year and now hitting fifth and playing left every game this year. I couldn’t be more proud of him!
There were a few side notes to this year as well. Myself, along with team captains Erik Zink and Steven Frey, started this team in 2009. Our first year we were awful going 8-14. But each year we got better winning the metal bat championship the following year, just missing the championship game in 2011, and then winning three in a row from 2012-present. This season, in our sixth as a team we won our 100th game finishing the year with a 105-34 career record.
The most amazing part of this year was that I actually missed our championship games due to the birth of my first child Wyatt Edward Shier, born August 21th, 2014. My best friend, Shaun Dougherty came down from Washington to visit us and instead of hanging out at the hospital I sent him to the game where he gave us play by play over the phone for both games. My wife Emily Shier is just as involved as I am, she is our score keeper, arranges all the season functions, helps me with lineups and team decisions and is the anchor for our team, so she was just as tuned in as I was. He had to go through three different parent’s phones because the batteries kept dying over two extra-inning games.So that Saturday I sat in the hospital with my wife and one day old son listening to my best friend broadcast my team’s championship games on speaker phone. As we listened to my team my ‘brothers’ came together and won our fourth championship by a walk-off home run by a young man who I met in 2008 when he was just 15 years old. I coached Jacob Gries at Blanchet Catholic School in Salem, Oregon his Freshman and Sophomore years in High School. Fast forward seven baseball seasons and we are now playing together in the MSBL. That moment could never be topped as we both jumped around our hospital room in tears listening to the Gamecocks win another championship. It truly didn’t matter that we weren’t there, because we were!
After the game a bunch of Gamecocks, including the season MVP Jacob Gries, came to the hospital where they presented me with the championship trophy and even a signed baseball by the entire team for my new son Wyatt! ?That is why this league is so special. It is moments like this which could never be topped and something I will tell my son about.These stories will last a lifetime!