Union Countyís Ray Jiminez, left, is late with the tag on a steal attempt in UCís 12-2 victory over the Baker Bulldogs Thursday at Lionsí Field. (Casey Kellas/The Observer)
The Union County 15-year-old Babe Ruth all-star team is in good position after two days of the District 3 tournament.
UC is 3-0 and is the No. 1 seed heading into today’s 10 a.m. game against the Baker Bulldogs.
“(This is the position we wanted to be in) most definitely,” Union County manager Matt Duncan said. “Looking at the state bracket, the champion of this tournament does not get a good draw. But these boys don’t want to lose a game. They want to win this tournament on their home field.”
After a 22-13 victory over Snake River Valley on Wednesday night, Union County picked up two wins on Thursday. UC defeated the Baker Bulldogs 12-2 in the morning before holding on for a 7-4 victory over the Baker Diamondbacks in the evening.
The win over the Diamondbacks secured the No. 1 seed for Union County heading into championship Friday.
A Jared Neiss RBI single scored Ray Jimenez to get Union County on the board in the top of the first inning, before an RBI infield single by Jake Workinger made it 2-0.
But Baker was able to answer with two runs of its own in the bottom of the first inning. A sacrifice fly by Rab Bowers cut into the lead, and an RBI single by Seth Dixon tied the game.
After Union County regained the lead in the second inning when Trent Shafer scored on a wild pitch, the Diamondbacks struck for two runs to take the lead, 4-3, on starting pitcher Jordan Vermillion.
“We were shaky at the beginning,” Duncan said of the pitching. “Jordan caught the first game this morning and came in and said ‘I’d go one more but I don’t have my legs under me.’ So we brought in our all-star pitcher, Ryan, and he threw shutout ball.”
After Ryan Adams relieved Vermillion on the mound, he held the Diamondbacks in check the rest of the way, working his way out of a couple jams.
And his offense was able to help him along the way as well.
Union County tied the game when Workinger scored on a Baker error in the third inning. An RBI single by Neiss in the fourth put Union County on top and the hosts never looked back.
A two-run seventh gave Adams a little cushion and he was able to close the door on the Diamondbacks.
“We hit the ball well,” Duncan said. “We faced probably the two best pitchers we’re going to see in the whole tournament (against the Diamondbacks). We’ve seen them before. You can’t go with the same horses every game. They were tired. I could see that. The boys were able to see it, their moral got higher and they finally hit the ball.”
Adams got the win, striking out three along the way.
Neiss finished 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs, while Zack Jacobs went 2-for-4. Jimenez, Workinger and Ross Duncan each added one hit.
If Union County is able to beat the Bulldogs at 10 a.m., it will face the winner of Snake River Valley and the Diamondbacks in the tournament championship at 7 p.m. today at Optimist Field.
Union County 12
Powered by a 3-run home run by Workinger and a 2-run home run by Adams, Union County was able to 10-run the Baker Bulldogs in five innings in Thursday’s afternoon contest.
Duncan worked four innings on the mound, striking out four and allowing two runs to earn the win.
Neiss and Isaiah Cranford both finished 2-for-4 at the plate in the win.
Union County 22
The Union County squad learned a big lesson during the opening day of the Babe Ruth tournament
No lead is safe.
According to Duncan, the Union County squad thought the game was out of reach when they held a 13-3 lead over the Snake River Valley Nationals after three innings.
But after the top of the fifth inning, the Snake River Valley team had rallied to tie the game.
Union County went on to win the game, but the lesson may have a big effect on his team, Duncan said.
The two teams combined for 25 hits and 35 runs in the near three-hour game at Optimist Field.
Union County started the game by jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, only to have SRV come back with three runs.
The Snake River Valley lead disappeared in the bottom of the second inning when Union County came up with five runs, then added another six in the bottom of the third inning.
Snake River Valley scored four runs in the fourth inning and added another six in the top of the fifth inning when they tied the score at 13-13.
Adams went to the mound in the fifth inning for Union County with a 13-10 lead and only one out.
But Adams couldn’t keep three more runs from scoring, with a fielding error helping two runners score to tie the game.
But Adams was able to shut down Snake River Valley in the final two innings, holding them scoreless.
Duncan finished the scoring battle with six RBIs and two doubles leading Union County through six innings.
Workinger started on the mound for Union County, and helped trigger the team’s second wave of scoring in the fifth when his double broke the tie and scored Cranford and Jacobs.
Vermillion and Shafer got on, loading the bases, allowing Jimenez to score two more runs with a one-out single.
Cranford came to bat for a second time in the inning, scoring two runs with a single up the middle, for a 19-13 lead by Union County.
In the sixth inning, Duncan hit a bases-loaded double to score three runs and close out the scoring.
“That Ontario team is a heck of a hitting team,” the Union coach said after the game.
“But these boys (Union) are very offensive-minded, too.”
The fact that the team came back after losing a 10-run lead showed a lot of character, coach Duncan said. “It also showed them that no matter how big a lead, you have got to protect it,” Duncan said.
“They knew they were in a ball game after that long (fifth) inning,” he said.