Welcome to the Eugene Challengers

 

2013 NW Region Runner Up

The Challengers finished the season as the Northwest American Legion Runner-Up, matching the organizations best overall finish!  Congrat’s to the players, coaches, manager, coach coordinator, and bat boys!

 

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Challengers on the Radio in 2014!

The Challengers have announced an agreement with Radio 84 KKNX to broadcast all league games and all post season games for the 2014 Season!  Thank you KKNX and Paul Yarbrough!  

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS / NEWS

Board of Directors Meeting

The Eugene Challengers Board of Directors will meet on Tuesday, April 8, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. in the Board Room at Swede Johnson Stadium.  All board meetings are open to the public.

08.12.13 – Regional Tournament Update Day 5

HAWAII 14, EUGENE CHALLENGERS 3 AS HAWAII WINS PACIFIC NORTHWEST REGIONAL TITLE
EUGENE, OR. –— It was a very happy 43rd birthday for Waipahu coach Oly Gante, as his Hawaii state champions won a thrilling elimination game against the Wyoming state champions early Monday afternoon and then routed the host Eugene Challengers, 14-3, to win the championship game of the American Legion Pacific Northwest Regional baseball tournament Monday evening at Swede Johnson Stadium.
With the victory, Waipahu (23-4) defeats the Challengers in regionals for the second straight year and advances to the American Legion World Series, Aug. 16-20 in Shelby, N.C., for the second time in three years.
The Challengers, in the first regional final in program history, were stymied by Waipahu lefty Bryson Yasui and undone by their own defense, committing eight errors while mustering only six hits. They finish the season 28-32-1, just the fourth losing record in their 38 years; they host regionals again in 2014 in quest of the first World Series berth in program history.
Yasui, who pitches for Concordia Community College in California, retired the last 16 batters he faced after Ben Giland walked with two outs in the fourth inning. Backed by errorless defense, Yasui didn’t allow a hit after the third, and didn’t allow a hit to the outfield after Giland’s double with two outs in the second. In throwing 131 pitches, he struck out six, walked one and allowed only six hits.
When he wasn’t pitching in the tournament, Yasui played left-field, with eight hits in 17 trips for a .471 average with nine runs scored, and for that he was named tournament MVP.
“To tell you the truth, not my happiest birthday ever, but pretty damn close,” Gante said. “The boys did a helluva job out there. I’m speechless right now. … They just kept battling and they came through. I’m speechless.”
After rallying to defeat Cheyenne Post 6, 8-7, the Hawaii state champions fell behind the Challengers 2-0 and 3-1 but took control with a four-run fourth, capitalized on Eugene’s shaky defense in the middle innings, and won the game going away with a six-run ninth. The Hawaii champs’ great team speed put relentless pressure on the Eugene defense, which struggled throughout the season and which had several players out of position because of injuries.
Yasui, who had a rough start in Hawaii’s opening loss to Idaho Falls, capitalized on his second chance after Waipahu won four straight elimination games to reach the championship game.
“The first day he had a hard time locating pitches, but we knew it would all come down to him,” Gante said. “He battled and he did a hell of a job. He kept them off balance.”
So did Hawaii’s team speed and 16-hit offense.
“We just tell them to come out and have fun and just play the game like it’s supposed to be played,” Gante said. “They did that. You can’t ask for more. … We put the ball in play a lot, and we ran a lot and we put pressure on them and it worked. They made eight errors, so it worked in our favor.”
For the tournament, Waipahu scored 66 runs in six games and hit .408, compared with .300 by their opponents. Waipahu stole 18 bases in 24 attempts — opponents were 2-for-4 — and saw opponents commit 23 errors to its 14. Four Waipahu players finished with double-digit hits — center fielder Tanner Tokunaga and third baseman Brent Sakurai had 14 each, shortstop Reid Akau had 11 to hit .500 and right fielder Austin Inabata had 10 and a team-high seven RBI.
The host Challengers, home team for the first time on the their home field, took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Giland led off being hit by a pitch, and was forced at second on a bunt attempt by second baseman Andy Arruda. Shortstop Erik Long singled to right, sending Arruda to second, and the runners moved up a base when first baseman Joe Schindler grounded to second.
With two outs, starting pitcher Jordan Thompson lined a single to center that eluded the dive of Tokunaga, scoring both runners. Right fielder Cameron Jack singled to move Thompson to second, but third baseman Tommie Ahlstrom lined to short to end the inning.
Waipahu drew within 2-1 in the third. Akau singled to left, and left fielder Tyler Uchiyama blooped a single to right. Tokunaga was safe on a fielder’s choice, and Uchiyama was safe at second when Arruda dropped Long’s throw for an error. With the bases loaded, Sakurai forced Tokunaga at second to drive in Akau on the fielder’s choice and send Uchiyama to third. Sakurai  stole second, but Thompson escaped further damage when designated hitter Austyn Nagamine lined out to Arruda, who threw to Long to double off Sakurai.
The Challengers answered for a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the third. Long beat out a perfectly placed bunt single, Schindler sacrificed him to second and he moved to third on a wild pitch. With two outs, Jack’s dribbler up the third base line became an infield single, scoring Long.
Waipahu came back in the fourth, scoring four times to take a 5-3 lead, sending nine batters to the plate and taking advantage of three Eugene errors and two wild pitches.
Clean-up hitter Austin Inabata beat out an infield hit to start the frame and scored from first when second baseman Drake Yoshioka singled to center and the ball got past Bennett Chiongbian for an error, Yoshioka advancing to second. Catcher Kamalu Neal walked, and both runners advanced on a wild pitch. First baseman Jaraad Salas popped to first, but Schindler dropped it for an error, Eugene’s second of the inning and third of the game, to load the bases.
A sacrifice fly to right by Akau scored Yoshioka to tie the game and sent Neal to third. Uchiyama singled to drive in Neal, Tokunaga reached on an error by Ahlstrom to load the bases again and Sakurai hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Salas with the second unearned run of the inning.
In the fifth, Inabata led off with a single, ending Thompson’s stint on the mound, as Schindler, Eugene’s ace who combined on a one-hitter in the opener Thursday night, moved to pitcher and Thompson moved to first base. Schindler got Yoshioka to hit into a force at second, and induced Neal into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
In the sixth, Waipahu threatened again when Salas singled and, with one out, Uchiyama hit his third single of the game, which got by Jack in right field for Eugene’s fifth error, sending the runners to third and second. Schindler struck out Tokunaga, and then Arruda made a sensational diving catch of Sakurai’s liner to end the inning and save two runs.
Waipahu took advantage of two more Challenger errors in the seventh to score two more unearned runs, this time without a hit, and up the lead to 7-3. Nagamine reached on a bobble by Long, Inabata walked  and Yoshioka bunted them to third and second. Schindler struck out Neal for the second out, but when Thompson couldn’t handle Salas’ hard grounder for an error, Eugene’s seventh of the game, Nagamine scored and Inabata raced to third. Waipahu then literally stole a run, as Salas allowed himself to be trapped between first and second; when Schindler held the ball too long, Inabata stole home ahead of the throw and Salas stole second.
In the eighth, Tokunaga doubled to right, Sakurai walked, and with Tokunaga running on the pitch, Nagamine singled to left to score Tokunaga for an 8-3 lead.
Hawaii scored six more runs in the ninth, sending 11 batters to the plate to lead 14-3. Schindler left the mound in the ninth after giving up lead-off singles to Neal and Salas, and was replaced by Rowdy Huston, as Schindler moved to left, Hank Forrest to right and Jack to second base.  Huston’s first batter, Akau, sacrificed and reached safely when Jack, covering first, dropped the throw for Eugene’s eighth error. Pinch hitter Tyler Enos was hit by a pitch to drive in one run, Tokunaga doubled in two more and Sakurai singled to score the fourth and fifth runs of the inning.
Huston struck out a pinch hitter for the first out, but a single and walk loaded the bases, and Huston was replaced by Danny Queirolo, who threw a wild pitch to score the final run before getting out of the inning against Hawaii pinch hitters
HAWAII 8, WYOMING 7
EUGENE, OR. -— In an elimination game between two truly resilient baseball teams, Waipahu of Hawaii was trailing by a run and down to its last strike twice in the top ninth inning before rallying for an 8-7 victory over Cheyenne Post 6 in the American Legion Pacific Northwest Regional on Monday at Swede Johnson Stadium.
The victory advanced Waipahu (22-4) to face the host Eugene Challengers later Monday in the regional championship game, for a berth in the American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C., Aug. 16.
The Wyoming state champions (53-25), who had trailed 5-2 going into the bottom of the seventh, had scored three in the seventh to tie and another in the eighth to take a 6-5 lead. In the top of the ninth, Cheyenne relief pitcher Mason Munford quickly retired the first two Waipahu batters and had a 2-2 count on cleanup hitter Austin Inabata when his next pitch narrowly missed for a full count. Inabata walked on the 3-2 pitch and advanced to third on a single by second baseman Drake Yoshioka.
Yoshioka stole second, and left-fielder Bryson Yasui, down to his last strike, roped a single to left to score both runners and give Waipahu the lead. A hit batter and an infield single loaded the bases, and Yasui scored the third run of the inning on a wild pitch for an 8-6 lead.
That run proved to be the difference as Post 6 scored in the bottom of the ninth, a rally started on singles by second baseman Tracy Calahan and shortstop Cameron Johnson off Hawaii reliever Brent Sakurai. A sacrifice bunt by Dixon Maggard moved runners to second and third, and an infield grounder by Brian Lopez scored Calahan as Lopez reached first on the high throw by shortstop Reid Akau.
On a 3-2 count, pinch-hitter Isaac Block hit a grounder to Akau, who tossed to second baseman Drake Yoshioka for the second out. As Johnson was crossing the plate with what would have been the tieing run, Yoshioka’s relay to first completed the double play, ending the game. Block appeared to some observers to have beat the throw, and the call was vociferously disputed by the Wyoming coaches.
The Hawaii state champions took a 2-0 lead against Cheyenne starter Charlie O’Grady in the third inning. First baseman Jaraad Salas was hit by a pitch and sacrificed to second by Akau. O’Grady got the next batter on a groundout, but pitcher Tanner Tokunaga lined a single up the middle for Waipahu’s first hit to score Salas. Tokunaga promptly stole second and third baseman Sakurai followed with another single to center to drive in Tokunaga.
In the fourth inning, the Wyoming state champions turned to relief pitcher Tyler Lambert to replace O’Grady and Waipahu upped its lead to 3-0. Yoshioka hit a one-out single to left, advanced to second and third on wild pitches, and scored on a two-out double to center by Salas.
Cheyenne closed to within 3-2 with a pair of unearned runs in the fourth. Johnson reached on an error by Akau, was forced at second by Maggard and scored on a booming two-out double to right-center by designed hitter Isaac “Big Country” Taylor, the first hit off Tokunaga. First baseman Dustin Parker followed with a single to right, and Taylor scored as the ball got past right fielder Austin Inabata for an error, Parker taking second. Center fielder Greg Ashley got Cheyenne’s third straight hit, a single to right, but Inabata threw out Parker at the plate on a close play to end the inning.
Meanwhile, Lambert pitched out of jams in the fifth and sixth to keep Post 6 close. With runners on second and third and one out in the fifth, he struck out catcher Austyn Nagamine and got Inabata, the cleanup hitter, to bounce out to shortstop. With runners again on second and third in the sixth, he got center fielder Dylan Sugimoto to hit a foul pop to third to end the inning.
Tokunaga himself pitched out of trouble in the sixth, throwing a called strike three by Parker with runners on the corners.
Waipahu’s great team speed produced another run in the seventh. Tokunaga struck out on a ball in the dirt, but catcher Logan Followell couldn’t come up with it right away and then made a hurried throw to first that sailed into right-field. Tokunaga raced to third, and Sakurai hit the first pitch  into right field for a single to score Tokunaga for a 4-2 lead. That was the last batter for Lambert, replaced by Munford, who gave up a one-out double to Inabata that scored Sakurai from first for a 5-2 lead.
Post 6 hit three doubles in the seventh to roar back and tie the game 5-5. Ashley led off with a double to the 390-foot mark in left-center, but Tokunaga appeared to escape any damage with a pair of groundouts. However, Calahan doubled to right-center, on a ball that arguably could have been caught by center fielder Dylan Sugimoto — playing that position while Tokunaga pitched — to score Ashley, and Johnson followed with a drive to left-center that Sugimoto appeared to misplay for another double, scoring Calahan to bring the Cheyenne team within a run.
The next batter, Maggard, lined sharply to right field for a single in front of Inabata, and coach Tagg Lain was holding Johnson at third, mindful that Inabata had already thrown out one player at the plate, when the ball got by Inabata for an error that allowed Johnson to scamper home with the tieing run.
Waipahu threatened against Munford in the eighth when Sugimoto walked with two outs and took second on a single by Tokunaga. But with Sakurai batting, Munford picked off Sugimoto to end the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, Sakurai moved to the mound, Tokunaga moved to center and Tyler Enos entered the game at third. Taylor led off with an infield single, was sacrificed to second by Parker and replaced by pinch runner Saul Alvarado. Another infield hit, this by Ashley, moved Alvarado to third, and he scored easily on a sacrifice fly to center by Followell for the go-ahead run, setting the stage for the dramatic and controversial ninth inning.

08.11.13 – Regional Tournament Update Day 4

WYOMING 10, EUGENE 5
EUGENE, OR. — One down, two to go for Cheyenne Post 6, which defeated the Eugene Challengers 10-5 on Sunday in the American Legion Pacific Northwest Regional baseball tournament at Swede Johnson Stadium.
In what was an elimination game for the Wyoming state champions, Post 6 got a complete game victory from left-hander Dixon Maggard and two home runs from slick-fielding shortstop Cameron Johnson to advance to Monday’s championship round.
Post 6 faces Waipahu, the Hawaii state champs, at 1 p.m. Monday, with the winner of that game advancing to face the Challengers, who lost for first time in the tournament, at 4 p.m. Monday for the regional title.
The winner of the 4 p.m. game advances to the American Legion World Series which runs Aug. 16-20 at Keeter Stadium in Shelby, N.C.
Post 6 took advantage of six Challenger errors in the first four innings to score three unearned runs in compiling an 8-1 lead before Eugene, which played 14 innings Saturday night, showed some life with three runs in the eighth and another in the ninth.
With a berth in Monday’s championship round ensured, the Challengers started Trevyn Dumilieu, nominally fifth in the rotation, with Jordan Thompson and possibly ace Joe Schindler available for duty Monday.
“It’s definitely the biggest game in Challengers history for me,” Eugene coach Todd Zeigler said.
Wyoming coach Tagg Lain said Maggard’s 142-pitch performance was huge for his pitching staff; the lefty, who will walk on at New Mexico State, began the season as Post 6’s No. 1 starter, but missed some time with elbow tendinitis.
“A big win for us,” Lain said. “A great outing for our lefty.”
Maggard allowed 13 hits, eight in the last two innings, struck out two and walked one.
“I’m not surprised,” Lain said. “I’m surprised he was able to control it for nine innings, but he was very relaxed out there.”
Now, Cheyenne must win twice on Monday to reach the World Series. “At this point, you’ve just got to go out and compete one inning at a time and let the chips fall where they may. There’s no doubt that this outing from Dixon, keeping our staff in the dugout the whole game, gives us a chance to pitch 18 innings on Monday, some how, some way, with some combination of different guys.”
The host Challengers, visitors by coin toss for the fourth straight game in the tournament, took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Left-fielder Ben Giland led off with single to right, was sacrificed to second by second baseman Andy Arruda, took third on a single by shortstop Erik Long and scored on a double down the left-field line by designated hitter Cameron Jack.
The Wyoming state champions got on the scoreboard in the second inning against Dumilieu, taking advantage of two infield hits and three more Challengers errors to take a 3-1 lead. Dustin Parker reached on a throwing error by Long, was sacrificed to second and score on an infield single by Logan Followell off the glove of Arruda. Brock Anderson reached on another throwing error by Long and Tracy Calahan walked to load the bases. Followell scored on a wild pitch, but Dumilieu escaped further damage despite a catcher’s interference call that extended the inning.
Post 6 upped its lead to 4-1 in the third when Dumilieu hit designated hitter Isaac Taylor and, with two outs, hit Followell. Anderson followed with Cheyenne’s first hit to the outfield, a line drive to center that scored Taylor.
The Cheyenne team scored twice more in the fourth to lead 6-1. Johnson led off with a homer to left, Isaac Block walked and was sacrificed to second by Lopez and moved to third on a single by Taylor. With two outs, Long was charged with his third error when Greg Ashley’s foul fly fell safely behind third, and with a second chance Ashley singled to drive in Block.
In the sixth, Post 6 scored again to up the lead to 7-1 on a single by Ashley, a walk to Followell and a two-out single to right by Calahan. Dumilieu limited further damage by getting Block to fly out as Post 6 left the bases loaded for the second straight inning.
In the seventh, center fielder Bennett Chiongbian moved to the mound for the Challengers after Dumilieu had allowed seven runs, four earned, on eight hits and thrown 120 pitches. In that inning, Taylor walked, advanced to second on a fielder’s choice and scored when Ashley’s bloop fell between three Challengers in short right field for a single and Cheyenne led 8-1.
Maggard, who had shut out the Challengers since the first and hadn’t allowed a hit since Arruda singled to lead off the third, ran into trouble in the eighth as the Challengers scored three times to pull within 8-4.
Giland grounded out to open the frame, the ninth straight Challenger to be retired, but Arruda singled, Long tripled him home and Thompson singled to drive in Long. A pinch hit single by Jacob Owens and a single by Ahlstrom loaded the bases. Forrest hit a sacrifice fly to right to drive in Thompson, but Maggard got pinch hitter Dalton Pachano on a grounder to third to end the threat.
Daniel Queirolo took over to pitch the eighth for the Challengers, and Cheyenne clawed right back, as Johnson followed a single by Calahan with his second homer of the game, another blast to left, for a 10-4 lead.
“Cameron Johnson has been tough for us all year,” Lain said. “When he gets hot, he’s very tough. He’s hit some home runs and got a bunch of big hits for us.”
The Challengers scored their final run in the ninth when Giland singled with one out, and Arruda and Long followed with singles to load the bases. A sacrifice fly to center by Thompson brought home Giland, but Arruda was thrown out at third trying to advance to end the game.
HAWAII 10, WASHINGTON 8
EUGENE, OR. — Finally, the Richland Flames ran out of ninth inning miracles, falling to Waipahu, 10-8, in an elimination game Sunday in the American Legion Pacific Northwest Regional baseball tournament at Swede Johnson Stadium.
After defeating Billings with a two-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth on Friday, and scoring six runs in the bottom of the ninth against the Eugene Challengers before losing in the 14th inning on Saturday, the Washington state champions came back roughly 12 hours later, fell behind 7-0 early but made a game of it, scoring once in the ninth and bringing the tieing run to the plate.
“You know what, first of all, we beat a great team,” said Waipahu coach Oly Gante. “They give us hell. We jumped on them, they came right back. Hats off to them, they’re a tough team.”
Gante was well aware of Richland’s comebacks, of catcher Jake Browne’s walk-off homer against Montana and the rally against the Challengers. However, Browne was forced out of Sunday’s game because of a migraine.
“Unfortunately for them, they lost one of their top hitters early in the game,” Gante said. “That helped us out, I think. Too bad he couldn’t finish the game.”
After getting a complete game Saturday from Kamalu Neal, Waipahu got eight strong innings Sunday from lefty Dylan Sugimoto, who threw 117 pitches while giving up six earned runs on 11 hits without walking anyone. With a 10-7 lead he was replaced to start the ninth inning by Josh Maglangit, who gave up a lead-off double to Linfield’s Finn McMichael, a single to Trevor Jones and a sacrifice fly to Ryan Neal for the second out before recording the final out.
Waipahu (21-4) advances to play the winner of Sunday’s Wyoming-Eugene Challengers game at 1 p.m. Monday with a berth in the American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C., on the line. Richland ends its season at 41-21.
Gante said first-game starter Bryson Yasui or center fielder Tanner Tokunaga are pitching options for Monday.
“Real exciting,” said Gante, whose team has played one-third of the games of most other teams here. “We love this. It’s what we wait for all year.”
The Hawaii state champions, who had 50 hits over the first three games, continued torrid hitting to seize control of the game with a six-run second inning, sending 10 batters to the plate, with the first seven reaching base against Richland starter Aaron Enderlin before an out was recorded.
Clean-up hitter Austin Inabata legged out an infield hit to start the inning and scored when Drake Yoshioka doubled to the Gorilla Capital sign in right-center. Bryson Yasui singled Yoshioka to third, Jaraad Salas walked to load the bases, and Reid Akau doubled into the left field corner to drive in two runs. Designated hitter Tyler Enos followed with a single to score Salas, followed by a wild pitch that scored Akau. Enos was ultimately tagged out at home trying to score on a fielder’s choice, but Tanner Tokunaga scored the sixth run of the inning when he reached on a bunt single, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a throwing error.
Waipahu added another run in the third, and drove Enderlin from the game on an infield hit by Yoshioka, a throwing error, another infield hit by Yasui and a sacrifice fly to center by Salas off relief pitcher Taylor Lindquist.
The Washington state champions got on the scoreboard with two runs in the fourth inning against Sugimoto. Jones singled, advanced to third on a double to left by Neal and scored on a sacrifice fly by second baseman Colin Serkowski. A single to left by shortstop Brady Heid drove in Neal.
The Flames made it a ballgame with three runs in the bottom of the fifth to pull within 7-5. Lindquist was hit by a pitch, McMichael reached on a bunt single and, with one out, Jones singled to drive in Lindquist and send McMichael to third, taking second on an errant throw. The torrid-hitting Neal, forced to move from third base to catcher when Browne left the game, singled home McMichael and Jones.
Meanwhile, Lindquist shut out Waipahu from the fourth through the seventh innings, but the Hawaii team chased him in the eighth when, after a pair of walks, back-to-back two-out singles by Inabata and Yoshioka scored pinch runner Tyler Uchiyama and Austyn Nagamine to pad the Waipahu lead to 9-5. Brandon Peterson took over on the mound, but before he could finish facing his first batter, Inabata was called at home on a disputed play on a double steal, 2-6-2.
The Flames scored twice in the eighth to pull within 9-7. With one out, Porcaro singled to right, Serkowski singled to left and, with Serkowski running aggressively, both scored on Heid’s single to right.
Waipahu scored an insurance run in the ninth when Yasui singled, took third on a double by Salas and scored on Uchiyama’s single through a drawn-in infield. Salas attempted to score from second, but was retired on a throw from Jones in center field.
“Those extra runs helped us in the end,” Gante said. And because of that, Waipahu’s season hasn’t ended yet.

08.10.13 – Regional Tournament Update Day 3

EUGENE 12, WASHINGTON 11, 14 INNINGS
EUGENE, OR. — A  six-run lead in the bottom of the ninth wasn’t enough for the Eugene Challengers, but they made a one-run lead in the 14th hold up to defeat the Richland Flames, 12-11, in a game that lasted almost four-and-a-half hours, from Saturday night to past 12:30 a.m. Sunday, in the American Legion Pacific Northwest Regional baseball tournament at Swede Johnson Stadium.
The winning run was driven in by North Eugene’s Tommie Ahlstrom on a fielder’s choice in the top of the 14th, and his Highlander teammate, Jacob Owens, capped 5.1 innings of scoreless relief with a perfect inning in the bottom of the 14th for the victory.
The significance of the win is this:
In their 38-year history, the Challengers have never won the regional tournament or advanced to the American Legion World Series. Now, they are ensured of playing Monday for a berth in the World Series that runs Aug. 16-20 at Keeter Stadium in Shelby, N.C.
Eugene is the only undefeated team remaining in the double-elimination tournament. The Challengers (28-30-1) face Cheyenne Post 6 of Wyoming at 4 p.m. Sunday, after Richland (41-20) faces Waipahu of Hawaii in an elimination game at 1 p.m. Sunday. If the Challengers win Sunday, they’d have two chances Monday, against the winner of the Richland-Waipahu game, to win the regional title. If they lose Sunday, they’ll have a bye at 1 p.m. Monday while Cheyenne faces the Richland-Waipahu winner, and will face the winner of that game for the title at 4 p.m. Monday.
The Challengers are banged up — that was clean-up hitter Joe Schindler, injured in a plate collision, using the crutches of outfielder David Bellamy, injured Thursday night, after the game. And yet they play on.
The Challengers took an 11-5 lead into the bottom of the ninth, which became a nightmare for Eugene, and a stirring comeback for the Washington state champions, who sent 11 batters to the plate and forced extra innings with just two hits. Rowdy Huston, in his third inning in relief of starter Cameron Jack,
hit the lead-off batter, Ryan Colson, got a flyout, and then issued a walk.
Huston was replaced by Daniel Quierolo, the Challengers’ closer, who walked two batters to force in a run and hit catcher Jake Browne to force in another run.  An error by Ahlstrom at third allowed Colin Serkowski to reach base and another run to score, and a single by Taylor Lindquist drove in the fourth run of the inning. The Flames drew within one when Anthony Porcaro hit into a fielder’s choice and just beat the throw to first to avoid a double play. That made it 11-10 Challengers, and Quierolo was replaced by Owens, who surrendered just the second hit of the inning, a single by Colson to left that drove in Serkowski to tie the game.
Owens then struck out Finn McMichael to end the inning, setting up five innings of taut, well-played extra innings baseball.
The Challengers threatened in the 12th when Schindler singled with one out, advanced to second on a wild pitch and throwing error, and Thompson walked. But Schindler was tagged out at the plate, and injured when he ran into the umpire, when Ahlstrom couldn’t get a bunt down on the suicide squeeze. Ahlstrom then singled, but Colson made a fine running catch of Jimmie Grossman’s line drive to right to end the inning. The injury forced Schindler out of the game, moving Ben Giland from catcher to left and Dalton Pachano into the game to catch.
The Flames seemed on the verge of victory  in the 12th, loading the bases, but with the clock past midnight and the game into Sunday morning, Owens got the dangerous Browne to fly to left to end the inning.
In the 14th inning, the Challengers finally scored when Erik Long hit a smash through second for a single off reliever Brandon Peterson, and Pachano sacrificed and reached on an error. A bunt single by Jordan Thompson loaded the bases, and Ahlstrom reached on a fielder’s choice and error as Long scored with what proved to be the winning run. But Eugene left the bases loaded, but Owens made the lead hold up.
The Challengers had 25 hits, led by Bennett Chiongbian, who had five, and Long, Schindler and Thompson with four hits. Ryan Neal was 4-for-4 for Richland, which had 11 hits.
In a back-and-forth game, the Challengers trailed 5-4 but scored four runs in the seventh to take an 8-5 lead. With one out, Schindler tripled to right-center and Thompson singled center to drive him home. Ahlstrom singled Thompson to second and, with two out, Hank Forrest singled to left to drive in Thompson, with Ahlstrom taking third and Forrest second on an errant relay. Ahlstrom scored on a wild pitch, and Chiongbian’s third straight hit scored Forrest.
Huston, who saved Friday night’s win, relieved Jack in the bottom of the seventh after the starter had allowed just two earned runs in six innings.
The Challengers added to the lead with two outs in the eighth when Schindler boomed his third straight hit, a double to left center, and Thompson followed with another double for his second RBI and a 9-5 lead.
Eugene scored two more runs in the top of the ninth for an 11-5 lead. With one out, Forrest ripped his third single of the game, Chiongbian followed with his fourth straight single and Giland walked to load the bases. Andy Arruda drove in Forrest with a groundout, and Long drove in Chiongbian with a single to left.
The lead seemed insurmountable, but it wasn’t, and there were more dramatics yet to come, and they put the Challengers on the verge of a historic moment for the team.

 

WYOMING 7, IDAHO 6
EUGENE, OR. — Down 0-2 in the count with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, trailing 6-4 with two runners on base in an elimination game in which his team had never led, Cheyenne center fielder Greg Ashley was just looking for a hit.
And a hit he got, an incredibly dramatic three-run homer over the left field fence to give Cheyenne Post 6 a 7-6 win over the Idaho Falls Bandits on Saturday night in the American Legion Pacific Northwest Regional baseball tournament at Swede Johnson Stadium.
It was Ashley’s first homer of the summer, and his only hit in the game, and it came off Idaho Falls relief pitcher Connor Van Orden, who had shut out the Wyoming state champions since entering the game in the fourth inning. It was the second straight night the 5 p.m. game ended with a walk-off homer, as Jake Browne hit a two-run shot on Friday to give Richland a 5-4 win over Billings, Montana.
“It’s indescribable,” Ashley said. “It’s a big game, a win or go home game. I don’t even know what to say.”
The improbable rally started when Brian Lopez blooped a one-out single to center and designated hitter Isaac Taylor lined a single to right. But Van Orden fanned Dustin Parker for the second out and got two quick strikes on Ashley.
“I was just looking for my pitch and honestly thinking base hit, just keep us going,” Ashley said. “It felt pretty good (when he hit it). I kind of watched it. I couldn’t really tell, and then I just saw it go. It’s the best feeling ever.”
With the win, Cheyenne (52-25) advances to play the winner of Saturday night’s game between the Eugene Challengers and the Richland Flames at 4 p.m. Sunday. Idaho Falls, who got a 5-for-5 performance from shortstop Scotty Allison, ends its season at 44-15.
“I talked yesterday about our guys coming back to compete,” Cheyenne coach Tagg Lain said. “And we were going to come out today and compete to the very last out. When we made the second out, I turned to the dugout and said ‘we’ve got plenty of time, just play the game, keep playing the game.’ We really had to do that from the third inning on, and remember that we were going to play baseball until the third out was made.
“Greg Ashley has had a great year for us, he’s a senior, and I love him in the clutch. The guy left a fastball up that he could handle, and he didn’t miss it. … I thought it had a great chance, that’s for sure.”
Another key for Cheyenne was the performance of its fourth pitcher, Brady Cates, who came into the game in the seventh and battled wildness to throw three shutout innings and get the win in relief.
“I thought Brady was probably the biggest key in the game for us defensively, to go out and throw up three zeroes, get nine outs for us and give us a chance in the last inning,” Lain said.
“It’s going to tough to find enough pitching (Sunday), there’s no doubt about it.”
The Idaho state champions jumped on Cheyenne ace Charlie O’Grady — who had pitched 4.1 innings and thrown 75 pitches as the Thursday starter in a 15-2 loss to Billings — in the top of the first inning, taking a 3-0 lead with two singles, a double and a no-doubt two-run homer to left field by clean-up hitter Tyson Craig.
“We wanted to start O’Grady because he said his arm felt good,” Lain said. “We weren’t going to pitch him more than one time through the lineup, but we start games with him and we win games with him when he starts. We knew this was going to be a bullpen game.”
O’Grady was replaced to start the second inning by right-hander Mason Munford, who gave up two runs in the third inning as the Bandits upped their lead to 5-0. Munford wound up striking out the side, but center fielder Luke Martin and catcher Jade Rencher each singled and scored on a booming double to left by first baseman Ian Ence.
The Wyoming state champions clawed their way back into the game with four runs against Bandits right-hander Jalen Fuhriman in the third. Third baseman Brock Anderson reached on a throwing error by shortstop Scotty Allison, second baseman Tracy Calahan walked and, after a strikeout, left-fielder Dixon Maggard blooped a double to left that fell barely fair and drove in Anderson. Lopez followed with a double to right, just past the dive of Joel Martin, that scored Calahan and Maggard, and Taylor hit Post 6’s third straight double, this a rope to right-center, to score Lopez.
The Bandits responded with an unearned run in the fourth to up their lead to 6-4. Allison reached on a bad-hop infield single, stole second, advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Fuhriman.
In the bottom of the fourth, Fuhriman moved to center, Luke Martin to first and Ence to second as the Bandits called on Van Orden to pitch.
In the fifth, Cheyenne turned to top relief pitcher Tyler Lambert, MVP of the Wyoming state tournament. Post 6 threatened against Van Orden in the bottom of the fifth, with an infield single, a fielder’s choice and a pair of walks, but left the bases loaded when Ashley flew out to left. Van Orden got out of another jam in the sixth; he allowed a pair of singles sandwiched around a strikeout, but retired shortstop Cameron Johnson on a flyout to deep center and caught Maggard looking at a called third strike.
In the seventh, Cheyenne turned to its fourth pitcher of the game, with Lambert replaced by Cates, who walked four Bandits that inning, one erased on a caught-stealing, and escaped a bases-loaded jam when Van Orden hit into a fielder’s choice. But Cates allowed just one base runner over the last two innings, and set the stage for the ninth-inning comeback.
HAWAII 7, MONTANA 4
EUGENE, OR. — As teams advance in the American Legion Pacific Northwest Regional baseball tournament, pitching depth becomes crucial and sometimes uncertain, but Waipahu coach Oly Gante thought he knew what he could expect from third-game starter Kamalu Neal on Saturday at Swede Johnson Stadium.
“Throughout the high school season, he was a bulldog, all the way,” Gante said. “He’d get in trouble, but he’d get out of it. He keeps throwing strikes and keeps coming at you. We knew he’d be alright if we could hit the ball.”
The Hawaii champs did just that, pounding 17 hits in a 7-4 victory over the Billings Royals as Neal went the distance in the elimination game, allowing four runs — two earned — on eight hits, striking out five and walking just one.
“He did a helluva job,”  Gante said. “He stuck it out all the way. He did good.”
With the tieing run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, the right-hander retired Wyatt Summers on a flyout to center field as Waipahu advanced to play Sunday, either at 1 p.m. or 4 p.m., while Billings’ season ended at 30-21.
Gante said Game Two starter Dylan Sugimoto, who threw only 28 pitches over three innings in an 18-1 rout of Alaska on Friday, would probably be Waipahu’s Sunday pitcher.
A veteran team with six community college players on the roster, Waipahu (20-4) stumbled in a loss to Idaho Falls to open the tournament but now has 50 hits in three games, including 12 doubles. Lead-off batter Tanner Tokunaga was 4-for-6 Saturday with two runs scored and two runs batted in, and shortstop Reid Akau also had four hits, while third baseman Brent Sakurai was 3-for-4 and made some stellar defensive plays.
“We had a bunch of hits,” Gante said. “The boys are turning it on. We need to turn it on. I think we’ve got a good bunch of kids here. … I think we’ll be alright.”
Saturday, Waipahu committed six errors.  “All season long, we’ve been a solid defensive team,” Gante said. “We’re just making some easy mistakes, but I think we’ll be alright.”
The Hawaii state champs took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third against Billings right-hander Tanner Leeknecht. Designated hitter Jarinn Afaga-Abreu doubled to right field and scored on a double to left by Tokunaga. Sakurai, who had already made two sensational plays at third base, sacrificed Tokunaga to third, and he scored on a sacrifice fly to right by catcher Austyn Nagamine.
The Montana state champs got a run back in the bottom of the third.  Right fielder Baylee Slevira was hit by a pitch, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by catcher Matt Dillon, was balked to third by Neal and scored on a fielder’s choice grounder to shortstop by first baseman Konner Wiechman.
Waipahu upped the lead to  5-1 in the fourth when Akau doubled to left and scored on a two-out double by Tokunaga, his second of the game and third hit in as many at-bats. Sakurai singled to center to score Tokunaga, stole second on a wild pitch that enabled him to reach third, and scored when third baseman Chance Ackerman mishandled Nagamine’s grounder for an error.
The Royals had a chance to get back in the game in the bottom of the fourth, loading the bases with one out  on a walk and two errors, but Neal coaxed Slevira to hit into a 4-6-3 double play.
Waipahu scored again in the fifth against relief pitcher John Vogel when left fielder Bryson Yasui was hit by a pitch and scored on a double to right by first baseman Jaraad Salas, Waipahu’s fifth double of the game.
Billings drew within 6-2 in the sixth when Vogel singled, reached second on a wild pitch and scored on a double to left by left-fielder Taylor Goselin.
Waipahu made it 7-2 in the eighth when Sakurai singled, reached third on a single by Nagamine, and scored on a groundout by right fielder Austin Inabata.
An unearned run in the eighth enabled the Montana team to draw within 7-3. Ackerman reached second on a two-base throwing error by Akau, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Goselin’s sacrifice fly to center.
In the ninth, Ackerman’s single drove in Joseph Zimmer with an unearned run to make it 7-4, but with runners on first and third, Neal’s 115th pitch of the game led to Summers’ flyout to center for the final out.

08.09.13 – Regional Tournament Recap Day 2

EUGENE 7, IDAHO 3
EUGENE, OR. — On the biggest stage of his young career, right-hander Hank Forrest, a rising junior at Churchill High School, overcame a couple of rough early innings to pitch through the seventh inning and lead the host Eugene Challengers to a 7-3 victory over the Idaho Falls Bandits in the second round of the American Legion Pacific Northwest Regional baseball tournament Friday night at Swede Johnson Stadium.
Forrest, with some shaky defense behind him early, gave up three runs, just one earned, and trailed 3-2 after the second inning. But he showed remarkable poise the rest of the way, allowing just four more hits and no runs before being relieved by Marist’s Rowdy Huston, who got the save with two shutout innings. Forrest struck out three and walked two.
“I was definitely really nervous, and I knew coming out of the bullpen that I did not have my best stuff,” Forrest said. “I was all over the place, so I really had to bear down and get it done.”
Challengers coach Todd Zeigler said that Forrest “hasn’t been in a pressure like that like maybe other guys on the team. It’s a big spot for him being a 16-year-old kid and being a No. 2 pitcher on the staff. You’ve got to take your hat off to the kid. He battled. …
“I had a couple of talks with him and told him ‘hey, man, you’re pitching for a reason, because we believe in you, we all believe in you.’”
The Challengers (27-30-1) play the Richland Flames at 8 p.m. Saturday, a matchup of the only remaining undefeated teams in the tournament. Idaho Falls (44-14) plays Cheyenne Post 6 in an elimination game at 5 p.m.
The Idaho state champions scored an unearned run in the bottom of the first inning to stake starting pitcher Ian Ence to a 1-0 lead. Jordan Hadley reached on an error by second baseman Andy Arruda, and advanced to second a single to left by Scotty Allison. Jalen Fuhriman grounded into a fielder’s choice, forcing Allison at second, but when first baseman Jordan Thompson dropped the relay throw, Hadley came around to score.
The host Challengers answered in the top of the second, taking a 2-1 lead on a pair of unearned runs. First baseman Jordan Thompson singled to right, and right fielder Cameron Jack, who put down a sacrifice bunt, was safe at first when Fuhriman dropped the throw. Tommie Ahlstrom bunted the runners to third and second, and, with two outs, center fielder Bennett Chiongbian lined a single to center to score Thompson and Jack.
The Bandits regained the lead in the second when Luke Martin drew a four-pitch walk from Forrest,  stole second and scored on a single to center by Joel Martin. Joel Martin stole second and scored the Bandits’ second unearned run of the game when a two-out fly ball by No. 9 hitter Connor Van Orden was dropped in right field by Jack, a infielder/pitcher forced to make his first outfield start of the summer because of the hamstring injury suffered in Thursday night’s game by regular outfielder David Bellamy.
“I just had to put it behind me and focus on the next pitch,” Forrest said. “There’s nothing I can do about plays that have already been made. I could only control what I could control, and that’s the next pitch.”
Meanwhile, the Challengers squandered opportunities in the first and third, each time stranding Arruda at third base.
Eugene took advantage of Ence’s wildness, both in throwing to the plate and to first base, to score four runs in the fourth and take a 6-3 lead without getting a hit or getting the ball out of the infield. Walks to Jack, Ahlstrom and Chiongbian loaded the bases with one out, and left fielder Ben Giland’s groundout to second scored Jack to tie the score at 3-3.
Ence seemed to have worked his way out of further trouble when he fielded Arruda’s soft grounder, but he threw the ball down the right field line, scoring Ahlstrom and Chiongbian and sending Arruda to third. Ence then struck out Erik Long on a wild pitch that allowed Long to reach base and Arruda to score the third unearned run of the inning.
Eugene squandered a golden opportunity in the sixth. The Challengers had loaded the bases with one out, but Long’s hard drive to center was caught by Luke Martin who threw out catcher Dalton Pachano attempting to score from third for an inning-ending double play.
Meanwhile, Forrest settled down, shutting out the Bandits from the third through the seventh with help from the Challengers defense, including a sensational catch in foul territory by Thompson — and in spite of it in the seventh, when Forrest had to pitch around two Challenger errors by retiring Tyson Craig on a come-backer and  striking out Luke Martin with runners on second and third. That was Forrest’s 102nd and last pitch of the night.
“I didn’t know how to react after that,” Forrest said. “It was a big sigh of relief. I was just thinking of getting off the field after that pitch.”
With Ence passing the 140-pitch mark, the Challengers added an insurance run in the ninth as Long doubled to open the frame and, one out later,  Thompson roped a double to the warning track in left center to bring him home. Jack followed with a single that sent Thompson to third and Enes to the bench, to be replaced by third baseman Connor Van Orden, who got a pop up and fly out to retire the side.
WASHINGTON 5, MONTANA 4
EUGENE, OR. — In the most dramatic game so far in the American Legion Pacific Northwest Regional baseball tournament, catcher Jake Browne hit a walk-off two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to give the Richland Flames a 5-4 victory over the Billings Royals on Friday evening at Swede Johnson Stadium.
Browne’s blast to left field, off reliever TJ Jacobs, came with one out and scored Ryan Neal, who had walked. The Flames, who led 3-2 after seven innings, had fallen behind when Billings pushed across single runs in the eighth and ninth. But that simply set the stage for Browne, who plays at Walla Walla Community College.
“Never,” said Browne, when asked if he’d hit a walk-off homer before. “I’m so excited.” It was his second homer in as many days at Swede; coming into the tournament, he’d hit one all summer, in 50-some games.
“I took a ball, and I knew he was going fastball,” Browne said. “Fun game, real fun game. Both teams played real well.”
The Flames (41-19) will play in a winner’s bracket game at 8 p.m. Saturday against the winner of the game between the Eugene Challengers and Idaho Falls. The Royals (30-20) play an elimination game against Hawaii at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“I think we have a real good chance,” Browne said. “We’ve just got to play like we can.”
Richland coach Nat Roe said Browne is “unbelievable kid … captain of our defense, toughest kid that we have. And he never gives up. And if you throw him fat early in the count, that kid will get it going, because he’s a very tough, very good hitter.”
Roe said his team, in winning for the 31st time in its last 33 games, didn’t panic after losing the lead.
“We don’t ever quit,” he said. “Whether we’re up 11-2 or down 9-0, we play. This game is a funny game, and if you’ve got some momentum and have some heart and belief, there’s a lot of things that can happen, and these guys truly believe that. … We started our league 3-9. We’ve been through some wars. We’ve been through hell. But we’re getting our rewards now.”
The Montana state champions scored an unearned run in the top of the first as Joseph Zimmer and Konner Wiechman each hit the first pitch he saw for a single, and Jacobs bunted on the first pitch to move them to second and third. Richland starter Jacob Anderson appeared to have escaped that jam with a two-out strikeout of Tanner Leeknecht, but a passed ball charged to then-catcher Aaron Enderlin on that play allowed Leeknecht to reach first and Zimmer to score.
The Washington state champions answered with an unearned run in the bottom of the first against Royals starter DJ Baxter. Lead-off batter Finn McMichael reached on an error by Zimmer at second and scored when Trevor Jones singled and right fielder Matt Dillon over-threw third base.
The Royals regained the lead in the top of the second when Dillon singled to right, reached third after a single by Zimmer and a walk to Weichman and scored on a wild pitch.
After leaving the bases loaded in the sixth, the Flames moved back on top in the seventh, driving Baxter from the game and taking a 3-2 lead. McMichael singled, reaching base for the sixth time in two games, Brady Heid walked and Jones singled to score McMichael and Ryan Neal singled to left on a ball that Taylor Goselin lost in the glare to score Heid. The Flames then loaded the bases, but Jacobs moved from shortstop to the mound and struck out designated hitter Nate Mitchell to end the threat.
But the Royals came right back in the eighth against Anderson, who had allowed just one hit since the second inning. Chance Ackerman started the inning with a single to left, Leeknecht singled to center and, with one out, Goselin singled to left to score Ackerman and tie the game at 3-3. That was all for Anderson, replaced by Mitchell, who got Pete Lind on a scorching liner to third and struck out Dillon to end the inning.
In the ninth, the Royals forged an unearned run to take the lead at 4-3. Zimmer reached when shortstop Heid threw wide, Wiechman sacrificed him to second, Jacobs walked and, after a wild pitch, Ackerman was intentionally walked to load the bases. Leeknecht followed with a first-pitch single to left to score Zimmer. However, Billings couldn’t add to the total, as Matt Shelhamer fouled out and Jacobs was thrown out at the plate, Browne to Mitchell, trying to score on a short wild pitch.
Roe praised the job his two pitchers did. “Tough as nails,” he said. “Nate Mitchell, we put him in a bit of a (mess), but that kid dug down, and he’s got heart and he gave us a chance. Both of our pitchers were absolutely huge.”
HAWAII 18, ALASKA 1
EUGENE, OR. — It wasn’t for lack of contact that Waipahu, the Hawaii state champions, found itself in an elimination game Friday in the American Legion Pacific Northwest Regional at Swede Johnson Stadium.
In a 12-9 defeat by Idaho Falls on Thursday, Waipahu had 14 hits but left 17 runners on base, including leaving the bases loaded three times, and didn’t lose as much as it ran out of innings. Friday, Waipahu kept hitting, pounding 19 hits, and stayed alive in dominant 18-1 victory over the Chugiak Mustangs of Alaska, in a game ended after the top of the seventh inning because of the 10-run mercy rule.
“Yesterday we didn’t make plays that we should have,” coach Oly Gante said. “We didn’t come through at times that we should have, too. We had a lot of opportunities, but we just didn’t come through. Today they did a better job. … The guys are hitting the ball really well.”
In a game in which every player on the roster played, Jaraad Salas and Jarinn Afaga-Abreu had three hits each, with two doubles each, and five other Waipahu players had two hits. Right fielder Austin Inabata was 2-for-3 with a three-run homer.
“I think we’re coming around,” Gante said. “We’re playing more loose like we usually do. I’m not making excuses for our team, but yesterday I think we came out a little flat. Today we did a better job.”
So dominant was the Waipahu win that starter Dylan Sugimoto was pulled after allowing one hit over three innings, striking out five and throwing only 28 pitches. Josh Maglangit pitched three shutout innings without allowing a hit to get credit for the win. Salas pitched the seventh, allowing three hits and an unearned run. Held to one hit by Eugene Challenger pitchers on Thursday, Chugiak managed just one hit in the first six innings Friday.
Gante said the ability to spread the pitching load could help Waipahu as the tournament continues.
“Dylan is like our No. 1 or No. 2,” he said. “We used him for three innings and got him out, and we can use him for another game.”
Waipahu (19-4) advances to play another elimination game  at 1 p.m. Saturday against the loser of the game between Billings, Mont., and Richland, Wash. Chugiak ends the season 22-20.
The Hawaii state champions sent 10 batters to the plate in the bottom of the first inning to take 6-0 lead against Chugiak starter Zach Brueggemann. The big blow was a three-run homer to left by Inabata that followed a pair of one-out walks.
A walk, single, two Alaska errors and an RBI double by Salas and sacrifice fly by Reid Akau closed out the first-inning scoring.
Waipahu drove Brueggemann from the game with four runs in the third inning to up the lead to 10-0, the inning featuring six hits, including run-scoring doubles by Salas and designated hitter Afaga-Abreu and another double by Austyn Nagamine.
In the fourth, Waipahu sent 14 batters to the plate, scoring eight runs to go up 18-0, all the runs unearned after a pair of dropped fly balls in center field to open the frame. Against Alaska pitcher Blake Kutch, the Hawaii team had six hits, including two doubles, and drew three walks.
WYOMING 5, OREGON 3
EUGENE, OR. — Through their first 11-plus innings in the American Legion Pacific Northwest Regional baseball tournament at Swede Johnson Stadium, the Wyoming state champions had mustered three singles, been routed 15-2 on Thursday and were trailing the Oregon state champions 2-0 in an elimination game Friday.
Manager Tagg Lain said his assistant coach, son Ty Lain, took it upon himself to light a fire under the players from Cheyenne Post 6.
“He’s played in several of these and was an excellent college player, and he’s probably the closest guy to these guys,” Tagg Lain said. “He got after them a little bit about competing. … From there we turned it around a little bit, made some adjustments and found a way to get some runs on the board.”
The result was a taut 5-3 win over the Stayton Canyon Crushers that keeps Post 6 (51-24) alive to play the loser of the game between the Eugene Challengers and the Idaho Falls Bandits in another elimination game at 5 p.m. Saturday.
The loss ends a storybook season for the Crushers (35-14), a second-year team from the Salem area that won just nine games a year ago and is coached by former Challengers standout Jeffery Mascolo.
In contrast to generally one-sided games on Thursday, the Stayton-Cheyenne game began as a pitchers’ duel between Stayton’s Ben Johnson, a right-hander and recent graduate of McNary High School, and lefty Isaac Block, a rising senior who toiled six innings, allowing five hits, two earned runs and striking out five.
“We really felt good about Block pitching,” Tagg Lain said. “He had to throw Sunday in our state tournament, threw seven shutout innings for us. … He’s been really good for us all year, and we felt like he’d give us a chance. … We weren’t great today (defensively), but he pitched through all the traffic early and we settled in.”
With the score tied 3-3, Block was relieved to start the seventh inning by right-hander Tyler Lambert, a rising senior who was the MVP of the Wyoming state tournament in which he worked out of a bases-loaded jam to save the title game..
Post 6 gave Lambert a lead to work with in the bottom of the seventh, going up 5-3 as shortstop Cameron Johnson had an infield hit, took second on a throwing error by Chris Burger, advanced to third when left fielder Dixon Maggard beat out a bunt and scored on a sacrifice fly by right fielder Brian Lopez. First baseman Dustin Parker then followed with a single that was misplayed in center field by Alex Emerson, allowing Maggard to score for the final margin.
In relief, Lambert pitched three innings, scattering three hits, walking one and fanning one.
“He’s a Swiss army knife for us,” Lain said of Lambert. “We’ll go to him in situations like today if he’s fresh, and he was today.”
More than anything, Lain wanted a chance for his team to play up to its abilities, which didn’t happen in Thursday’s loss to Billings, Mont., in which Post 6 had only one hit and committed five errors.
“I think more than anything, we were very disappointed in the way we played,” Lain said. “We take pride in the way we play, we play a schedule all over the country. … We came out and really played poorly. We wanted to show ourselves and the state of Oregon and these people that we were no slouch and we could play baseball. I was very pleased with the way our kids played and bounced back and found a way to win.”
The Oregon state champions took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first when Burger led off with a single, advanced to second on an infield bunt single by Emerson, took third when third baseman Mason Fessler walked to load the bases, and scored on an infield grounder by designated hitter Ty Wyatt. On that play, Emerson also scored as Cheyenne third baseman Brock Anderson threw the ball past second base.
The Wyoming state champions tied the game with a two-out rally in the fourth inning. Parker reached on an infield single, center fielder Greg Ashley walked and catcher Logan Followell singled sharply to left to load the bases. Anderson, the No. 8 hitter, then singled to right to drive in Parker and Ashley.
“We flipped the switch in the fourth inning and from there we played pretty good,” Lain said.
The team from Cheyenne took a 3-2 lead on an unearned run in the fifth when Maggard scorched a double to left-center, advanced to third on a passed ball charged to Stayton catcher Hunter Gates, and scored on a groundout to shortstop by Lopez.
The Canyon Crushers tied the game 3-3 on a two-out rally in the sixth. Left fielder Ty Sawyer was hit by a pitch, took second on a single by first baseman Conner Gilham and scored on a single to right by Gates.
Ben Johnson, the Stayton starter, went the distance, allowing just two earned runs on 13 hits.