The 2016 Gresham GreyWolves season might be in the books, but before we head home for the summer, it’s time to take one last look back at the top moments from the first year in franchise history.
Most Exciting Finish – June 17 vs Kelowna
Desperate to break a three-game losing streak, head coach Justin Barchus knew that Gresham needed to take advantage of every late-game opportunity that came its way against the visiting Kelowna Falcons. With two outs and Ryan Smith (Southern Illinois) standing on third base, Barchus and Smith decided the moment was perfect to try for a walk-off steal of home.
The roll of the dice paid off as Smith slid in just before the tag was applied. The moment gave the GreyWolves their most exciting finish of the 2016 season.
Best Comeback – June 18 vs Kelowna
That feeling when you win on a walk-off steal of home pic.twitter.com/Qilkd3BPfW— Gresham GreyWolves (@GreshamGWolves) June 18, 2016
One night removed from an unbelievable walk-off against Kelowna, Gresham’s flair for the improbable continued against the Falcons in game two of their three-game series. Despite trailing 5-0 as the contest headed into the bottom of the ninth, the GreyWolves rallied for six consecutive runs in that final frame to pull off a 6-5 stunner against the visitors from British Columbia.
The game ended with Michael Breen (San Jose State) beating out a bad throw from the Kelowna shortstop, scoring the sixth run of the night to set off a wild celebration that spilled deep into foul territory along the first base line.
Sometimes when you walk-off, you've got to run all the way down the line to celebrate properly. pic.twitter.com/MRWjrAcWYU— Gresham GreyWolves (@GreshamGWolves) June 19, 2016
Most Important Win – July 14 vs Victoria
If one was to single out Gresham’s most important win of the summer, its strange victory over the league-leading Victoria HarbourCats on July 14 would be a good one. Needing a victory to remain in first place heading into the All-Star break, the GreyWolves managed to overcome both an early three-run deficit and an untimely delay to top visiting Victoria. The win also gave Gresham a big series victory against the HarbourCats.
“This is huge,” said Barchus after the win. “Knowing that Victoria is the best team in this league record-wise and we just beat them in a series gives us a lot of confidence.”
Most Important Series Win – July 30-August 1 at Bend
Barchus’ team entered their final series in the month of July right in the thick of the playoff race, heading to Bend where at least two wins would be crucial to keep their postseason hopes alive. They ended up leaving Central Oregon with those two wins in hand, with both coming by two runs or less.
The final victory – an 8-7 thriller that saw the Elks rally all the way back from a 7-1 deficit – pulled the GreyWolves to just a half game out of first place in the South Division’s second half standings.
Win games. Slap hands. Repeat. pic.twitter.com/3J2JEoDTme— Gresham GreyWolves (@GreshamGWolves) August 1, 2016
Best Single Pitching Performance – Rilyn Lewchuk at Kitsap
In a season littered with impressive performances on the pitching mound, one three-game stretch for Gresham shined high above the rest. And one outing in that series – Rilyn Lewchuk’s seven innings of one-hit, shutout baseball against the Kitsap BlueJackets – bested them all.
Lewchuk (Corban) took a perfect game into the bottom of the seventh inning at Kitsap before exiting with one hit attached to his record, a near-perfect outing to go along with an explosive seven-run performance at the plate for the GreyWolves.
“Our pitchers are starting to catch a rhythm,” Barchus said after the series. We moved Lewchuk into the rotation and he was about as good as you can be.”
Best Offensive Performance – June 26 vs Wenatchee
Gresham came into its June 26 matchup with the Wenatchee AppleSox losers of six of their last seven games. And when Wenatchee jumped out to an early 6-0 lead in the series finale between the two clubs, it was readily apparent that the GreyWolves would be on their way to another loss.
That loss was not in the cards, however, as Gresham rolled off 11 straight runs on 12 hits to cruise to a five-run victory over their visitors from Washington. The 11 runs was the team’s highest offensive output of the season, and both Jack Johnson (Washington) and Nick Snyder (Western Oregon) hit their first home runs of the season in the explosion.
“I think it’s contagious,” said Barchus when asked about his team’s offensive mindset while playing from behind. “For guys who aren’t having good at-bats, they see a ball hit to the wall or hit over and they say, ‘I can do that too’. We got some big hits from all over.