WALLA WALLA — Three-time defending champion Exchange scored twice in both the sixth and seventh innings Thursday night to eke out a 4-3 victory over Eastgate Lions in the championship game of the Walla Walla All-City Babe Ruth baseball tournament at DeSales High School’s Ray Lane Field.
“This game was a classic,” Exchange manager Rod Fazzari said after his team claimed its fourth straight All-City crown. “Any baseball fan would have loved tonight’s game.”
Thursday’s conquest capped a perfect 18-0 season for Exchange and extended its winning streak to 23 games dating back to the 2012 campaign.
Exchange and Eastgate Lions met in last year’s championship game. Exchange took that one by an identical 4-3 score.
Exchange’s last loss came in its 13th game of 2012 — a 4-2 setback to Eastgate Lions.
The starting pitchers — Jared Ortiz of Eastgate and Exchange’s Aron Fazzari — dominated the first five innings of Thursday’s title tilt. Eastgate, thanks to a first-inning run, held a 1-0 edge going to inning six.
Eastgate expanded its lead to 3-0 in the top of the sixth. An error resulted in the first run of the frame and the second tally crossed the plate on an infield grounder to second base off the bat of Caleb Shanks.
Exchange used a pair of Eastgate miscues in the home half of the sixth to produce its first two runs of the game. With two outs, Brandon Stairs was hit by an Andrew Flagstead pitch with the bases loaded to force in the second run.
“When you put the ball in play, you give yourself a chance,” said manager Fazzari, whose first two batters of the inning reached base on errors. “As the game wore on, the pressure was mounting.”
Flagstead, who relieved Ortiz due to the 95-pitch limit, regained his composure and struck out Jack Dwyer on a 2-2 pitch to end the inning.
““He was ready to pitch, excited to pitch,” manager Ortiz said of Jared Ortiz. “He gave it his all and did an outstanding job.
“He was very composed out there,” manager Ortiz said of Flagstead. “Give him credit.”
Isaiah Standard started the Exchange seventh with a bloop single to center field. Fazzari followed with an infield hit that sent Standard, who was running on the play, to third.
Fazzari stole second before Kenneth Rooks drew a walk to load the bases.
With one out, Mitch Lesmeister dropped a single into center to tie the game.
Ethan Haen brought in the winning run with a one-out bleeder to right.
“We have a big target on our chest. It comes with the territory and we’ll take it,” manager Fazzari said. “I’m proud of my team for how they hung in there.”
“The top of their lineup put the bat on the ball and we couldn’t make the plays,” manager Ortiz said. “But I’m happy with the boys.”
Manager Fazzari also took time afterward to praise Eastgate Lions, who ended the year with a 9-7-2 mark.
“I feel bad for them,” he said. “They deserved to win just as much as we did. This game was great for Babe Ruth baseball.”
Exchange 4, Eastgate Lions 3
Eastgate Lions 100 002 0 — 3 3 2
Exchange 000 002 2 — 4 7 1
Ortiz, Flagstead (6) and Co. McKeown; Fazzari, Standard (6) and E. Haen, Crowley (3).
HR — none.
Hits — Eastgate Lions: Ortiz 2, C. Shanks; Exchange: Fazzari 2, L. Haen, Rooks, Standard, M. Lesmeister, E. Haen.