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La Grande’s Tyson Wicklander slides in safely to third base during the district championship game Sunday at Optimist Field. Wicklander was a co-most valuable player in the 11-1 victory over Hermiston. (Casey Kellas/The Observer)
McDonald’s/Legacy Ford defeats Hermiston 11-1 to capture district championship
La Grande’s McDonald’s/Legacy Ford Legends American Legion baseball team swept through the competition en route to winning the district championship Sunday at Optimist Field.
The Legends defeated the Hermiston Spuds, 11-1, to earn the title.
“We expected it,” Sunday’s starting pitcher, Tyson Wicklander, said. “I’m not gonna lie. But it feels really good. It’s going to help us carry momentum into state.”
Sunday’s victory capped off a 3-0 weekend for the Legends, who are sponsored by La Grande’s American Legion Post 43.
McDonald’s/Legacy Ford started the tournament with a 10-0 win over The Dalles on Friday. The Legends then defeated Pendleton, 10-5, Saturday to advance to the title game.
“We just played together,” first baseman Jake Chamberlain said. “We strung along a lot of hits when we needed them and hit with runners in scoring position. It’s something we’ve done all year, but this weekend we did a really good job of it.”
Wicklander got the Legends off to a good start against Hermiston on Sunday. He led the game off with a double and came around to score on an infield RBI single by J.C. Rogers. Rogers eventually scored on a RBI double by Garret Avila to make it 2-0.
Hermiston cut into the lead in the bottom of the first inning. After an error at shortstop and a walk, Cole Smith hit an RBI single to make it 2-1.
But that would be as close as the Spuds would get.
Wicklander hit a two-out double in the second inning and scored on an RBI single by Eli Wisdom to make it 3-1.
“I wanted to put myself in better position,” Wicklander said of his two doubles in the game. “They wouldn’t have to bunt me over to second. I could be in scoring position right off the bat.”
McDonald’s/Legacy Ford added two more runs in the fourth inning when Drew Hively and Wisdom both scored on wild pitches.
A six-run fifth inning — highlighted by RBIs by Kaleb White, Wicklander, Rogers and Chamberlain — made it a 10-run game.
Trenton Powers, who relieved Wicklander on the mound after the third inning, retired the Spuds in the bottom of the fifth to end the game.
“They played as good as they could have played,” manager Mike Wisdom said. “They just built on everything through the whole season right to this point. They played their best baseball this weekend, and they are ready for state.”
Wicklander got the win, pitching three innings, striking out three and allowing three hits. Powers struck out two in two innings of work.
Wicklander finished 3-for-4 with three runs scored and two RBIs, while Chamberlain went 1-for-3 with a run batted in.
Wicklander and Chamberlain were named co-most valuable players of the game.
“I was kind of slumping before this,” Chamberlain said. “I just had to get back to doing what I was doing before. It was an all-out team effort and we got the ‘W.’”
Rogers had three hits and two RBIs, while Wisdom had two hits and two runs scored. Avila and Brandon Cedarholm also had hits.
“We played fundamentally sound baseball all around,” Coach Wisdom said.
“The kids have really learned how to play the game. They are very disciplined at the plate. No matter who we put in the lineup, no matter who pitched, they all did great.”
The Legends will now travel to Roseburg for the state tournament which opens Wednesday.
The team will have to wait for the bracket to be finalized before learning who they will face first.
“No. 1 seed is definitely big expectations,” Chamberlain said.
“That’s what we’ve said all year and that’s what we’ve had to live up to. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing. But I think we can do it.”
Legends 10, D-Jaxx 5
The Legends overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat Pendleton in Saturday’s semifinal. Avila pitched six innings and struck out nine, five players had multiple hits and McDonald’s/Legacy Ford earned itself a spot in the championship.
Avila was named the player of the game.
Legends 10, Hustlers 0
White and Kurt Boyd pitched a combined one-hitter and the Legends blanked The Dalles in Friday’s opener.
Wicklander had four hits, Seth Madsen had three and the Legends finished with 13 hits as a team to start the weekend with a double-digit win.
Madsen was named the player of the game.