OAK HARBOR, Wash. — Walla Walla Pacific’s 10-year-olds had their stay at the Washington State 9-10s Little League baseball tournament here Monday.
Pacific dropped an 8-2 decision to Richland National in a loser-out game to end Walla Walla’s season.
Walla Walla fell into the loser-out affair with a heartbreaking 6-5 loss to Kent in the opener Saturday.
“Richland National has a very solid ballclub,” Pacific manager Rod Fazzari said. “They are comparable in talent to the Kent team. Richland 10-runned an excellent Mercer Island team on opening day before falling to a powerful Marysville team yesterday (Sunday). And we hung right with ‘em for the first four innings.”
Indeed, Walla Walla jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning after Pacific’s Lucas James blanked Richland in the top of the stanza.
Walla Walla’s Ethan Zehner and Justin McKenzie both singled, and then advanced on a Richland overthrow. Brady Knowles then brought both runners home with a single of his own.
Richland got a run back in the top of the second on a double and a single.
Pacific put runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the second inning when Elijah Richards singled and Cohen Ocanaz was hit by a pitch, but they were unable to score.
Richland National tied the game in the top of the third when a Richland batter reached base on an error, advanced to second on a passed ball, and scored on a single by Ryan Jundt.
Walla Walla loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the third on a Justin McKenzie single, a Richland error, and a walk to James. However, Pacific was once again unable to score.
“Other than Brady Knowles’ clutch hit to score two runs in the first inning, we were not able to put the ball in play with runners in scoring position the rest of the game,” Fazzari said. “We had our chances, several with less than two out. We stranded five runners in scoring position in the second and third innings. If we could have scored a couple of those runs early on in the game, it would have put some serious pressure on Richland.”
In the top of the fifth, Richland put two runners on base with a single and a Walla Walla error. The first runner scored on a bunt and the second runner stole home to put Richland ahead 4-2.
In the top of the sixth, Richland scored four times on two walks, a hit batter and a single by Richland’s Jundt’s that was misplayed in the outfield.
James pitched into the third inning before Colton Hamada relieved him. Zehner and Knowles also saw time on the mound in the sixth inning.
“I was especially pleased with the pitching of Lucas James and Colton Hamada,” Fazzari said. “Neither pitcher walked a batter, and they gave up just four hits in the five combined innings they pitched. Our guys threw well enough for us to win the ballgame.
“Our defense wasn’t as solid as it was in our prior games, however,” he said. “Richland put some pressure on us on the base paths and we simply didn’t respond very well.”
Despite the two losses, Pacific’s run at state was worth the trip, Fazzari said.
“It was a great experience for us to play in this state tournament in such a beautiful part of our state,” he said. “After sweltering through 110-degree heat in the district tournament in Asotin, it was delightful to play in the moderate 70-degree sunshine in Oak Harbor. We had perfect weather all week.
“The level of competition at the state level is formidable,” Fazzari said. “Most of the teams in this tournament have been playing together for quite awhile, and it shows. The two games we played over here were just our third and fourth games together as a team. And yet, we hung right in there in our first game with a Kent team that will challenge for the state championship. And against Richland, we had a 2-2 barnburner going into the fifth inning before our defense let down just a bit.
“It was a tense game through the first four innings as the two teams battled to a 2-2 tie,” he said. “And then we made a few mistakes in the field that good teams will capitalize on. Our boys were disappointed that they gave a few runs away there in the fifth and sixth innings. But they come home knowing that they competed gamely with the state’s best teams and lost two close games they could easily have won.
“There are multiple tournaments every weekend around the Northwest that teams can enter and play in,” Fazzari said. “But there is something special about the tournament experience with Little League All-Stars. The games are intense, the umpiring is superb, the level of play is a cut above what you would expect, and the boys give everything they have on that field.
“It is such a pleasure to be a part of it all and an experience none of us will soon forget.”
Richland 8, Walla Walla 2
Richland National 011 024 — 8 6 0
WW Pacific 200 000 — 2 6 3
Grewe, Tanner (3), Templeton (5) and Artzer; James, Hamada (3), Zehner (6), Knowles (6) and Knowles, Chase (4).
HR — none
Hits — Rich: Mayer, Jundt 2, Korenkiewicz, Templeton, Grewe; WW: Hamada, Zehner, McKenzie 2, Knowles, Richards.