WALLA WALLA - Cox-Jones and Tom's Chevron earned berths in the championship game of the 35th annual Walla Walla City Little League baseball tournament with semifinal victories Monday night at the Pacific Little League Complex.
Nick Roth's two-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the eighth inning lifted Cox-Jones to an 8-6 win over McDonald Zaring in the evening's first semifinal.
Isaiah Standard connected for a tie-breaking, RBI single in the guest's half of the sixth inning and Tom's Chevron - with a tournament roster that features 10 of 12 players under 12 years of age - hung on for a 3-2 triumph over Cummins Athletic.
The tournament's title contest is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Pacific Little League Complex.
Cox-Jones 8, MZI 6
Cameron Spencer, who had five of McDonald-Zaring's nine hits in the game, and Nick Zehner staked their team to a 1-0, first-inning edge with back-to-back doubles to commence a four-run frame.
"He's an amazing kid," MZI manager Steve Barker said of Spencer. "They wanted to pitch around him and they couldn't."
A bases-loaded hit by pitch forced in the second run and Jacob Ramsey capped the early bonanza with a two-RBI single.
Cox-Jones got three of those runs back in the second. The first scored on a lead-off home run to right field by Matt Chabre and the latter two crossed the plate on an MZI error.
Spencer tallied McDonald Zaring's fifth run during inning four. He doubled, stole third, and scored on a Cox-Jones' miscue.
Noah Porter drew Cox-Jones even at 5-5 in the fifth inning with a two-run homer to right.
Spencer and Zehner repeated their first-inning achievement with two outs in the sixth inning. Their consecutive two-baggers put MZI in front, 6-5.
Cox-Jones forced extra innings with a run in its half of inning six thanks to a two-out walk, a wild pitch, a single, and an MZI error.
Prior to Roth's shot, a long fly to right, MZI stranded runners at second and third in the seventh inning, and left the bases loaded in the eighth.
Spencer and Dillon Courson pitched in long relief for their respective teams. Both took the mound in the second inning. Courson lasted until the seventh inning and Spencer tossed into the eighth.
"This is the most exciting game I've ever been a part of," Cox-Jones manager Tim Boutz said. "I thought this game was over two or three different times. This was a game you didn't want anybody to lose."
"I thought we had it won a couple of times," Barker said. "It shouldn't have been close in the sixth inning.
"I didn't expect to be in the city tournament this year, but they (the players) worked their butts off," Barker said.
Tom's Chevron 3, Cummins 2
The teams exchanged two-run bombs in the first inning. Standard, who socked three hits in the contest, gave Tom's a 2-0 lead with a dinger to right-center and Alec Carrera responded with a blast to straight-away center.
It stayed 2-2 until the sixth due in part to solid starting pitching by Tom's Mitch Lesmeister and Tanner Gorze of Cummins.
"Both pitchers settled down," Tom's Chevron manager Rod Fazzari said. "The home runs were up in the strike zone. Both pitchers (then) discovered the size of the strike zone."
In the sixth, Standard scored Ethan Haen with a base knock to right. Haen led off the inning with a single and advanced to third on a two-base error.
"Standard is a clutch player, and has been all year long," Fazzari said. "We'll have him for Wednesday (to pitch the title tilt)."
Cummins got a runner as far as third in the home half of the sixth inning, but were unable to equalize.
"This was little league baseball at its finest," Fazzari said of his team's victory and the game prior. "I'm really proud of the young kids.
"It (the championship game) will be a supreme challenge for us, but I like our chances."
"It stings a little bit," Cummins manager Don Davis said. "We lost by one run to a team that has lost one game all year. We should get a pat on the back for that."
Cox-Jones 8, MZI 6
MZI 400 101 00 - 6 9 3
Cox-Jones 030 021 02 - 8 8 2
Zehner, Spencer (2), Stairs (8) and Spencer, Zehner (2); Chabre, Courson (2), Porter (7), Roth (7) and Hano.
HR - Cox-Jones: Chabre, Porter, Roth.
Hits - MZI: Spencer 5, Zehner 2, Ramsey, Lynch; Cox-Jones: Roth 2, Chabre, Bogley, Courson, Porter, Wicklund, Hano.
Tom's Chevron 3, Cummins 2
Tom's Chevron 200 001 - 3 5 1
Cummins 200 000 - 2 4 2
Mi. Lesmeister, E. Haen (6) and E. Haen, Standard (4); Gorze, Davis (6) and Davis, Carrera (4).
HR - Tom's Chevron: Standard; Cummins: Carrera.
Hits - Tom's Chevron: Standard 3, Mi. Lesmeister, E. Haen; Cummins: Carrera 2, Davis, Gorze.