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Union County catcher Andrew Peasley makes a play at home to get a putout of Mound Time baserunner Keegan Huey during the fifth inning Saturday. (Mike Weber/For The Observer)
THE DALLES — The Union County 14-year-old Babe Ruth all-stars concluded the summer-league baseball season by taking third place in the North Oregon State Tournament after a 12-2 win over East Portland (3-3) Saturday at Wahtonka Ballpark in The Dalles.
Union County (3-3), guided by manager Arnie Peasley, bounced back from a 14-2 loss in the semifinals to North Oregon champion, Beaverton Mound Time, to capture third place in addition to winning the tournament Sportsmanship Award.
“We’re pretty happy to get third place, and we proved that we could compete with any of the teams here, because we did that for six innings against Mound Time,” Peasley said. “We beat East Portland in pool play and we’re glad that we beat them again for third. We feel really proud that we were the only team out of seven to win the Sportsmanship Trophy.”
Mound Time (43-13 overall) outscored six opponents, 85-24, including a 4-3 win over Mid Willamette Valley of Salem in the championship game. Mound Time advances to play in the Babe Ruth League Regionals July 28-Aug. 3 at Centralia, Wash.
After getting a split in the opening round of the seven-team, three-day event Thursday, UC split again Friday, including a 10-4 win over The Dalles (0-4).
But UC suffered two costly injuries versus The Dalles. Catcher Jon Gonzalez was hurt after getting hit by a foul ball, and Brad Bell sustained a broken right arm while making a defensive putout at first base.
Friday’s schedule of back-to-back game’s consisted of another matchup against Mid Willamette (5-1, 41-11 overall), and Bell and Gonzalez were unavailable to play, leaving UC with just nine players. Facing a powerhouse squad that outscored its previous three opponents by a total of 53-24 and had 13 players was an advantage for Mid Willamette, which won 17-11 over UC.
“We had to make some adjustments in our lineup, because Jon is our normal catcher,” Peasley said. “We had to move our center fielder (Andrew Peasley) to catcher. (Andrew) hasn’t played catcher at all this year, but he sure did a great job.”
Finishing 2-2 in pool play, UC accomplished its goal of reaching Saturday’s semifinal round. UC had a rematch versus Mound Time, whom they lost to 10-5 in their opening contest Thursday. Mound Time, the defending champions, also won the 2012 13-year-old Babe Ruth North Oregon state title.
Gonzalez recovered enough from his injury and was able to play second base, but not his usual catcher position.
Mound Time went up 3-0 in the first inning and after a scoreless second, UC made a comeback in the third. Peasley helped shift the momentum in UC’s favor by throwing out a MT baserunner at second on the final play in the top of the third.
In the bottom half of the frame, Josh Rummell drew a leadoff walk and three batters later, UC nearly tied it up with a two-out rally. G.T. Blackman reached base on an error and then Peasley (1-for-3) blasted a ball deep to center field. Rummell scored on Peasley’s RBI single and Blackman scored on an Aaron Goss (1-for-3) RBI single with a line drive to left field, making it 3-2.
Following a scoreless fourth, MT capitalized on two UC errors to extend the margin to 6-2 in the fifth. UC had a golden opportunity to trim the deficit in the sixth when Rummell (hit by pitch) and Isaac Chamberlain (walk) led off the inning to put a runner in scoring position.
Following an MT pitching change, reliever Makoa Nakamura helped end the possible UC scoring threat as the next three batters went down in order as it was 6-2 after five. MT added a run in the sixth, making it 7-2. UC nearly answered when Noah Allen (1-for-3) belted a fly to right for a two-out double, but he was stranded as it remained 7-2 going into the seventh. MT took advantage of three walks, two hit batters and two errors to score seven runs to build a 14-2 lead for the final margin. Allen, Goss and Peasley were the only players to get hits as MT out-hit UC, 10-3.
In the consolation game, UC met East Portland, which lost 10-0 to MWV in the other semifianl matchup. UC overcame a 2-0 second-inning deficit to score 12 unanswered runs.
UC knotted it 2-2 in the second on RBI singles by Rummell and Joe Pendarvis and then outscored EP 10-0 over the next three frames to win in five via the 10-run Mercy Rule.
“After the regular season, Coach Gary Bell and I picked the all-stars and then we had just a week of practice with the kids,” Peasley said. “We won districts (in La Grande) and then we took third at state, which isn’t too bad. We really had a great year.”
The Babe Ruth all-stars will now move on and continue their athletic careers as eight of the team members are incoming La Grande High freshmen.