LA GRANDE, Ore. — DeSales tuned up for this weekend’s Class 2B regional baseball tournament at Murr Field by avenging one of its two losses.
The Irish scored early and they scored often here Tuesday afternoon in defeating La Grande 8-3 in the non-league game. The Tigers had prevailed 2-1 in 10 innings when the teams met earlier in the year in Walla Walla.
“La Grande is the best team we have played this year, the best coached for sure,” DeSales coach Kim Cox said. “They are pretty good at the plate and pretty good on defense. So we are pretty pleased with a pretty good outing against a pretty good squad that we had difficulty with earlier.”
The Irish banged out nine hits in the game, including Kyler Pommerening’s inside-the-park home run and Darryl Galloway’s double that came within inches of clearing a high fence in straightaway center field. They were guilty of just one miscue in the field, and all three pitchers who are expected to see duty this weekend — Adam Eskil, Logan Hoeft and Cam Richman — saw time on the mound.
DeSales will take a 19-2 overall record into Saturday’s first-round regional game against Kittitas. The first pitch is slated for 1 p.m. and will be preceded by a 10 a.m. match between Riverside Christian and Colfax. The Bulldogs earned their regional berth Tuesday night with a resounding 21-4 district win over Lind-Ritzville.
Saturday’s first-round winners will meet at 4 p.m. to decide one of four tickets to next weekend’s Class 2B state semifinals in Ellensburg.
“Kittitas is a young and inexperienced crew, but here they are in the regionals,” Cox said of the Coyotes, who are led by veteran coach Merle Watkins. “Merle is another old warrior who has been at Kittatas about as long as I’ve been at DeSales, and I have seen him do it over and over again.
“I’ve seen him beat a couple of teams that had twice the athletes he has. He makes all the right moves, hangs in and finds a way to squeeze it out at the end. I tip my hat to the guy.”
Cox holds the same regard for La Grande coach Mark Lanman.
“Their coach is a good friend of ours, and we respect their coaching staff and their kids,” Cox said. “And we always look forward to competing against them.
“We both compete really hard against each other, but when the game is over we shake hands and sometimes go out to dinner together.”
The Tigers are also playoff bound, Cox pointed out, so Tuesday’s game was a tune-up for them as well.
The Irish got the scoring started early when leadoff hitter Joe Duehn powered a triple to the right-center field gap and scored on Eskil’s sacrifice fly. Travis Haen then walked, stole second base and scored a Tim Caudill double, the first of his three hits in the game.
La Grande scored once in the bottom of the first inning to slice the Irish lead in half. But DeSales got that run back in the top of the second when Reilly Roach tripled and scored on Duen’s infield out.
DeSales tacked on another run in the fifth inning when Pommerening’s hard line drive was just out of the reach of the La Grande right fielder, who dove for the ball, hit the ground hard and was shaken up on the play. By the time the Tigers’ center fielder could retrieve the ball, Pommerening had circled the bases for his first home run of the season.
A four-run Irish outburst in the sixth put the game out of La Grande’s reach.
Galloway’s double off the top of the center field fence got things started and Caudill’s two-run single finished the rally. In between, Hoeft was safe on a fielder’s choice, Roach contributed an RBI double, Pommerening was hit by a pitch and Eskil picked up an RBI on an infield grounder.
Hoeft was the most effective Irish pitcher, blanking the Tigers over four innings of relief. Eskil pitched the first two frames and yielded one run and Richman was nicked for a pair of runs after taking over to begin the seventh inning.
“Adam struggled a little bit, getting behind hitters a few times,” Cox said. “I thought Logan threw really well with a good strike-to-ball ratio, but Cam wasn’t as sharp as normal.”
Jake Chamberlain led La Grande with a pair of singles and an RBI.
DeSales 8, La Grande 3
DeSales 210 014 0 — 8 9 1
La Grande 100 000 2 — 3 7 1
Eskil, Hoeft (3), Richman (7) and Richman, Duehn (7); White, Workinger (5), Gamble (6), Wicklander (7) and Rogers.
HR — DeSales, Pommerening.
Hits — DeSales: Duehn, Eskil, Caudill 3, Galloway, Roach 2, Pommerening; La Grande: White, Avila, Rogers, Chamberlain 2, Cedarholm, Wilson.