WALLA WALLA - The bad news for the Wa-Hi Blue Devils here Tuesday in first round Columbia Basin Big Nine Class 4A District baseball action is their hopes for a district championship disappeared in a nightmarish sixth inning against Moses Lake.
That sixth inning saw the Chiefs get one hit, saw Blue Devil starting pitcher Drew Christina strike out what would have been the third out, saw Wa-Hi commit two errors, and saw the Chiefs score three times.
Chiefs starting pitcher Nick Laszlo recorded five of the last six Blue Devil outs via strikeout, and it will be the Chiefs that play for the District title against Richland, a 7-0 victor over Davis Tuesday, at 10 a.m. Saturday at Murr Field.
The Chiefs won their loser-out battle over Chiawana 12-6 earlier Tuesday, and used their sixth inning to edge Wa-Hi 3-2 to move onto the title game.
The good news for the Blue Devils is that the goal to continue in the playoffs is still alive. Wa-Hi plays Davis Saturday at 1 p.m. in a loser-out battle for a spot in the sub-regional tournament.
The winner of the Wa-Hi-Davis game plays the loser of the Moses Lake-Richland game at 4 p.m. Saturday.
"So the deal is that we have one more game to win," Wa-Hi coach Keith Gradwohl said. "(With a win) then we're into sub-regionals. That's our goal."
Wa-Hi got on the board first. Michael Pontarola singled to right with two outs in the home second.
Tyler Stevenson drew a walk, and Brett Christina doubled Pontarolo home, but Laszlo enticed a fly ball and stranded Blue Devils at second and third.
Drew Christina blanked the Chiefs using a pick-off of Nick Dodds to get out of a two-hit Moses Lake third.
Drew Christina retired the Chiefs on four pitches in the ML fourth, and struck out the side in order to end the Chiefs' fifth.
Stevenson's bloop single off the first basemen's glove started the Blue Devil fifth. With two outs, Moe Handcox singled pinch runner Nick Poolman to third. Jake Jimenez's hard-hit grounder to deep short was gloved by Moses Lake shortstop Cameron Alverado, but he had no play as Jimenez was safe at first and Poolman scored to give Wa-Hi a 2-0 lead after five.
The Wa-Hi nightmare began as Bryton Redal reached on an error to open the Chiefs' sixth. Tony Hernandez doubled Redal to third. A walk to Alverado loaded the bases with no outs.
Drew Christina got a strikeout, and Matt Noyola drove a sac fly to center for the second out as Redal scored to pull the Chiefs within 2-1.
Kody Samuels struck out on a ball in the dirt that got away. Wa-Hi tried unsuccessfully to get Hernandez at the plate, then tried to nail Alverado, who was attempting to race to third on the play, but the throw went astray and Alverado scooted home with what proved to be the game-winner.
"One bad inning," Gradwohl said. "Just weird high school baseball. There at the end, we strike the kid out, and (Wa-Hi catcher) Conner (Holbrook) didn't think he had a play at first, so close play at the plate. That's the way it goes."
Laszlo pitched the complete game, giving up five hits and striking out six. The Chiefs played errorless ball behind Laszlo.
"Give Moses Lake credit," Gradwohl said. "They made all the plays. Laszlo pitched really well. Moses Lake has had a tough season with their head coach passing away. They simply outplayed us."
For Wa-Hi, Drew Christina, despite a complete-game, nine-strikeout four-hitter, suffered his first pitching loss of the season.
Moses Lake 3, Wa-Hi 2
ML 000 003 0 - 3 4 0
Wa-Hi 010 010 0 - 2 5 2
Laszlo and Noyola; D. Christina and Holbrook.
Hits - ML: Alverado, Dodds, Redal, Hernandez; Wa-Hi: Pontarolo, B. Christina, Handcox, Jimenez, Stevenson.