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Union County pitcher G.T. Blackman hurls a pitch in the first inning of a Babe Ruth 14U North Oregon State Tournament game versus East Portland Thursday at Wahtonka Ballpark in The Dalles. (Mike Weber photo)
THE DALLES — Typically, Portland area all-star baseball teams dominate events such as the Babe Ruth League 14U North Oregon State Tournament, held in The Dalles this week.
Needless to say, Union County’s Babe Ruth all-stars of La Grande were feeling very confident following a 17-5 victory over East Portland (1-1) Thursday on the first of the three-day, seven-team tourney.
Union County (1-1) bounced back from a 10-5 loss in its 8:30 a.m. opening matchup versus a powerhouse Beaverton Mound Time (2-0) squad.
For Union County, guided by coach Arnie Peasley, the win in a 2:30 p.m. contest over East Portland was a huge confidence building victory against a strong team that was considered one of the top contenders among the seven all-star squads.
“We played good in the second game and our bats came alive, just like they did at districts,” said Peasley, whose squad scored 63 runs in three games in winning the district tourney July 6 at Pioneer Park in La Grande.
“We were a little sluggish in the first game and we made four errors in one inning that (Mound Time) capitalized on to score eight runs and take control. If we don’t make any mistakes, then I think we can compete with them.”
UC came out and had a great start in the first game versus Mound Time and led 2-0 after two innings. The momentum shifted in favor of Mound Time in the third when it got eight runs to go up 8-2.
UC, which totaled just five hits, trimmed it to 8-5 in the top of the fourth. Mound Time answered and got two in the bottom half of the frame for a 10-5 lead and it was scoreless the last three innings.
In the second game, East Portland jumped in front 2-0 in the first, but UC exploded for 10 runs in the bottom half of the frame to stun the Portland all-stars.
UC had 13 batters in the inning, when it pounded six of their 10 total hits and capitalized on three walks, two batters hit by a pitch and scored one run on a wild pitch. A two RBI single by Aaron Goss, Travis Haga’s two RBI double and a three-run triple by Andrew Peasley helped UC build a 10-2 lead.
“We didn’t play our best in the first game, but then we played real good in the second game, so it’s been a pretty fun tournament so far,” Andrew Peasley said.
“We had some costly errors and we gave (Mound Time) some pretty good scoring opportunities that they were able to capitalize on. If we didn’t have any errors, then we would’ve been right there with them in a close game that we might’ve had a chance to win. If we play our best on Friday and be disciplined at the plate, then we’ll have a good shot at the semis on Saturday.”
East Portland came back and trimmed the margin to 10-5 in the second inning.
UC answered and got two in the bottom of the second, highlighted by Isaac Chamberlain’s RBI single and an RBI double by Jon Gonzalez, making it 12-5.
After a scoreless third, UC extended its advantage with a four-run fourth, making it 17-5 and the contest concluded in the fifth via the 10-run Mercy Rule. UC pitchers Gonzales and starter G.T. Blackman combined to hold EP to just three hits.
“It sure is cool that a team from a little town like La Grande can beat a team from Portland,” said Blackman, who struck out two while pitching the first two innings versus Portland.
“I certainly feel more confident now about our chances for success here in the tournament than I did earlier. I thought the teams were going to be better, but now I feel like we’re capable of beating any team here. I think we have a chance to win the championship, actually.”
UC will play a back-to-back schedule Friday with its first game at 11:30 a.m. versus The Dalles (0-2), followed by a 2:30 p.m. contest against Mid Willamette Valley of Salem (2-0).
The Dalles has struggled defensively, while getting outscored 45-20 in its two losses. Mid Willamette outscored its two opponents 40-18. The top four squads from the
“I like playing back-to-back, because you don’t have that break in between where kids sometimes get tired of waiting and it can often disrupt your rhythm,” said Peasley, a 12-year youth league coach.
“Hopefully our bats will stay alive and we’ll keep putting runs up on the scoreboard. I think as long as they keep the bats going, then we’ll be in good shape. We definitely have to get one more win to ensure that we’ll play in Saturday’s semifinal playoff round.”