SELAH, Wash. - Needing to win one of two games against league rival Richland, the Walla Walla Bruins got the job done without drama and defeated the Knights 3-1 to win the Yakima bracket of the American Legion Central League District tournament Monday.
The Bruins, 19-10 after going 3-0 in districts and winning 12 of their last 13 games, advance to the Legion state tournament in Anacortes, Wash., as the No. 2 seed out of the Central League. Walla Walla faces Spokane's University Titans Saturday at 4 p.m.
Pitchers Zach Zehner and Luke Reardan combined to limit the Knights to just four hits on the day (two each), with Zehner pitching through five innings and giving up one run while striking out two and walking two.
"Zach (Zehner) did exactly what we needed him to do," Bruins coach Jason Parsons said. "He kept the game close and gave us a chance to win, and that's what we needed."
The Bruins scored one run in the first inning. Daniel Camacho reached on a fielder's choice after Daniel Lake was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Camacho stole second and advanced home thanks to an RBI single from Reardan.
In a similar story, the Knights answered in the top of the second after Payton Radliff was hit by a pitch, stole second and advanced home on a single from Tyler Kjarmo.
It was all Walla Walla from there, however, as Richland did not score again.
Ali Buentello scored the Bruins' winning run in the top of the fourth without a lot of assistance. He doubled off the left-field fence, then stole third and advanced home after a wild throw from the Richland catcher trying to catch him at third.
Camacho scored again to add an insurance run in the next inning. After leading the inning off with a single, Camacho advanced to second base on a passed ball and third on a single from Reardan. J.J. Zamora sent him home with a long sac-fly up the middle.
The Bruins, who have at times this season struggled with defensive errors, committed just one error in the game and only two over the whole three-game tournament.
"We have really cleaned up our defensive play," Parsons said. "It's been evident and we've been able to win some games now, including close games.
"At the beginning of the season, there were some people who thought these guys (Bruins) were not talented enough to get where they are now," Parsons said. "I'm really proud of these guys, they are resiliant and they will not give in."
The Bruins are 3-1 against the Knights on the season after defeating Richland 3-2 to start the tournament, and splitting a mid-season doubleheader.
Walla Walla and the Kennewick bracket champions, Hanford, had to go through two tie-breakers to determine who would take the No. 1 seed to state. Hanford and Walla Walla both allowed six runs in the first two games, which pushed the tie-breaker to runs scored.
The Flames took the No. 1 seed thanks to outscoring the Bruins 12-10 in the first two games.
Walla Walla 3, Richland 1
Richland 010 000 0 - 1 4 2
Walla Walla 100 110 x - 3 6 1
McGeorge and Kjarmo; Zehner, Reardan (6) and Fulmer.
HR - none.
Hits - Richland: Chambers, McGeorge, Kjarmo 2; Walla Walla: Camacho 2, Reardan 2, Buentello 2.