MOSES LAKE - Strong hitting in the first game and power pitching in the second carried the Walla Walla Griz to a pair of district victories here Tuesday and a berth in the Washington American Legion Single A state baseball tournament that begins Saturday in Spokane.
"The kids are playing baseball really well right now," Griz coach Ryan Van Dyke said. "This is actually the first time this age-group of kids has ever made it to the state tournament, so it's exciting and fun."
Walla Walla entered the three-team Central Washington American Legion district tourney as the No. 2 seed and faced third-seeded Pendleton in the first game. Thirteen hits later the Griz recorded a 17-5 victory and moved into the championship game against the host Moses Lake Sun Devils.
Ryan Kimball set the tone with six shutout innings of pitching and Walla Walla pieced together a two-run rally in the third inning and a three-run rally in the fifth for a 5-2 victory. Kimball chalked up eight strikeouts, walked four and allowed three hits before turning the game over to closer Wyatt Taylor in the seventh.
"Ryan reached his pitch count in the sixth," Van Dyke said. "Wyatt is our closer, and we were comfortable turning things over to him in both games."
Taylor, who blanked Pendleton in the fifth and final inning of the first game in relief of Gavin McEvoy, yielded a hit and issued four walks against Moses Lake. But Walla Walla's only error of the game resulted in two unearned Sun Devil runs before Taylor was able to work his way out of the jam and secure the victory.
"The umpire's strike zone was really tight," Van Dyke said in explaining Taylor's four free passes. "Both teams had a hard time with it."
Kyle Barker drew a one-out walk to start the Griz's third-inning rally. After taking second on a passed ball and reaching third on Reid Magnaghi's infield grounder, Barker trotted home on Blake McKinney's two-bagger.
Kal Gray followed with a single that plated McKinney for a 2-0 Walla Walla lead.
In the three-run fifth, Walla Walla did all of its damage after two were out.
Magnaghi singled to open the inning but was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double. After a second out was registered, McKinney walked and Gray reached on an infield error. Both runners moved up on a passed ball and Kimball followed with a two-run double and a 4-0 lead.
Colby Watilo walked and Solomon Arellano was hit by a pitch to load the bases. And McEvoy's infield single produced the fifth Walla Walla run.
Gray and McKinney smacked three hits apiece and Magnaghi, Watilo and McEvoy contributed two hits each as the Griz roughed up the Diamondjax in the day's first game.
McKinney roped a single, double and triple and collected a pair or runs batted in, and Gray had two singles and a double, four RBIs and two runs scored. Magnaghi contributed two singles and scored three times; Watilo collected two singles, drove in two runs and scored three times; and McEvoy singled, doubled, drove in two runs and scored twice. Trevor Coronado added a two-run hit and scored two runs.
The Griz, who had split four regular-season games with Moses Lake and defeated Pendleton in three of four games, improved to 27-13 going into the state tournament.
The eight-team, double-elimination state tourney will be played at University High School in Spokane and will run through July 25, Van Dyke said. The coach said he hoped to know by Thursday who his team's first-round opponent would be and the game time.
Walla Walla 17, Pendleton 5
Pendleton 020 30 - 5 4 1
Walla Walla 182 42 - 17 13 1
Goodwin, Pierce (4) and Myers; McEvoy, Taylor (5) and Watilo, Lybbert (4).
Hits - Pendleton: Lonny, Hager 2, Frostad; WW: Magnaghi 2, McKinney 3, Gray 3, Watilo 2, McEvoy 2, Coronado.
Walla Walla 5, Moses Lake 2
Walla Walla 002 030 0 - 5 6 1
Moses Lake 000 000 2 - 2 4 3
Kimball, Taylor (7) and Watilo; Boyd, Karstetter (6), J. Vela (6) and Crum.
Hits - WW: McKinney, Gray, Kimball 2, Arellano, McEvoy; Moses Lake: J. Vela 2, Karstetter, Longmire.