WALLA WALLA — League champions.
And now...STATE CHAMPIONS!
Logan Cordeiro slashed a two-out, two-run double that capped a three-run, ninth-inning rally that lifted the Walla Walla Bruins to a 9-8 victory over Eastlake in the championship game of the Washington American Legion Class AA State Baseball Tournament Thursday afternoon at Borleske Stadium.
The come-from-behind triumph completed an ultra-successful summer campaign for the Bruins. Walla Walla, which took second in last year’s state tourney, ended 2013 with a mark of 39-7.
Walla Walla’s Kal Gray, who collected four hits in the game, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. He compiled 15 safeties in the Bruins’ seven tournament contests.
“It’s about all of us,” Gray said of the award. “We all contributed to this.”
Eastlake’s Mick Vorhof was recognized as the tournament’s Most Valuable Pitcher.
Both teams let first-inning scoring opportunities slip away after a 48-minute rain delay pushed back the first pitch. Eastlake stranded runners at first and second while the Bruins left the bases loaded.
Eastlake grabbed a 2-0 edge in the second inning and added single runs in the third and fourth frames to take a 4-0 lead.
The advantage held until the bottom of the fifth when Walla Walla evened the score.
Eastlake starting pitcher Max Escarda fashioned a two-hit shutout through four innings before being touched for four runs on six consecutive hits in inning five.
Cordeiro picked up the Bruins’ first RBI with a single, Ryan Kimball drilled a two-run knock to right field, and Zach Zehner made it 4-4 when he rolled a hit to left.
“We had to fight through the nerves,” Walla Walla coach Jason Parsons said. “We weathered the storm and started chipping away.”
The Bruins took their first lead in the home sixth. Cordeiro drew a one-out walk, was doubled to third by Gray, and scored on Adam Eskil’s grounder to shortstop.
Eastlake capitalized on three Walla Walla errors to the tune of four runs in the seventh inning and reclaimed the lead, 8-5.
The Bruins’ defense was shoddy throughout much of the game. Walla Walla was guilty of six miscues that helped contribute to six unearned runs by Eastlake.
Robi Novak brought the Bruins within two, 8-6, with an RBI grounder to short in the bottom of the seventh.
In the last of the ninth, Reid Magnaghi walked, Trevor Coronado was hit by a pitch, and Novak laid down a bunt that caressed the third-base line to put a Bruin at every base.
“At that point, you had the feeling that things might go our way,” Parsons said.
Colby Watilo hit into a 3-2 fielder’s choice that forced Magnaghi at home.
David Pontarolo grounded into a 6-4 fielder’s choice that brought Coronado home to make it an 8-7 game.
Cordeiro fell behind in the count no balls and two strikes before working the count full. He lined the pay-off delivery from Eastlake reliever Mark Whitley down the right-field line to score the tying and winning runs that set off a bearable celebration for the Bruins and their delirious fans.
“I expanded my strike zone and wasn’t overanxious,” Cordeiro said of his 0-and-2 approach. “I was looking for a good pitch to drive.
“I hit a low fastball,” Cordeiro said. “I knew it was fair the whole time. I knew we won as soon as I hit first (base).”
Walla Walla starter Kyle Barker scattered 11 hits over 6 1/3 innings, struck out six and walked two. Eskil notched the win with 2 2/3 innings of no-run, one-hit relief.
“Kyle and Adam did what they needed to do to give us a chance to win,” Parsons said.
“Those guys can swing it,” Barker said of Eastlake. “I told myself that ‘I’ve got to go as long as I can.’ My team was behind me 100 percent. They backed me the entire game.”
Once the postgame euphoria subsided, Gray, Barker, Watilo and Parsons each took a moment to look back on the Bruins’ championship run.
“We knew that if we could get through districts, we could win it all,” Gray said. “We’re never out of it until there are three outs in the last inning. Whatever happens happens, and we’ll overcome it somehow.”
“It feels good,” Barker said. “It was well deserved. We worked hard. We were together and focused all the time. We’re a team.”
“This capped off our season,” Watilo said. “Never count us out. We worked too hard to let it go without a fight. This is our time.”
“It was a pretty fun experience,” Parsons said. “This was a very resilient and nice group of kids.”
Walla Walla 9, Eastlake 8
Eastlake 021 100 400 — 8 12 1
Walla Walla 000 041 103 — 9 13 6
Escarda, Whitley (7) and Kothari, Mano (7); Barker, Eskil (7) and Daniel, Watilo (6).
Hits — East: Hooker 3, Frizelle 3, Vorhof, Whitley, Boe, Iraola, Kothari, Mano; WW: Gray 4, Cordeiro 2, Zehner 2, Buentello, Eskil, Kimball, Watilo, Novak.