August 17, 2001 11:00 pm

By The Observer

POWELL, Wyo. La Grandes bats were swinging hard Friday in its opener at the Northwest Class A Regional Baseball Tournament.

Rain Roofing picked up its 12th straight win, pounding Richland Washingtons No. 1 seed 17-7 in a seven-inning game that ended due to the 10-run mercy rule.

The win sets up a second-round contest with the Friday-night winner of the Service Post 28 (Alaska) and Powell, Wyo., contest at 6:30 PDT tonight.

La Grande (27-9) exploded for five runs in the fourth and fifth innings and sent Richland pitcher Brian Winston, the Washington State Tournament MVP, to the bench by the fourth inning.

Going into the park, I told our assistant coach, Terry Fischer, that wed led off the district and state tournaments by swinging the bat well, La Grande coach Wes McAllaster said.

The trend continued as La Grande racked up 20 hits, with four apiece from Zach Glasser, Drew Fischer and Dollen Stroup. Tanner Abel had three hits.

Tied 2-2 through two innings, La Grande went ahead for good in the bottom of the third on a Tanner Abel one-run single, a Ty Mellinger bases-loaded walk that brought in Fischer and an Abel score off a passed ball.

The contest was put away in the fourth when Abel blasted a three-run homer. That came two batters after Fischer drove in Shane Slover.

Abels home run put La Grande ahead 9-4. Richland pulled Winston after the hit.

Richlands coach was telling me that Winston was the MVP of their (state) tournament and he didnt give up a run in two outings, McAllaster said.

Richlands next pitcher was lit up on a Dollen Stroup double. Mellinger then advanced to first base safely on an error that led to Stroup scoring for a 10-5 lead.

In the fifth inning, Corey Royal led off with a single, followed two batters later by a Fischer one-run double. Abel loaded the bases when he made it to first on an error, and Stroups single scored Fischer and Abel.

Stroup was thrown out trying to stretch his single into a double for the second out of the inning, but Mellinger followed with a solo home run.

Aaron Thomas singled and stole second, setting up Jason Smiths one-run single to cap the scoring that inning.

La Grande added two runs in the sixth on an Abel one-run double and a Mellinger one-run sacrifice fly to center field.

Glasser got Rain Roofing off to a fast start in the first when he hit a leadoff single. Following two outs, Stroup hit a two-run homer.

Abel led La Grande with five RBIs. Stroup had four, Mellinger three and Fischer two. Glasser added two steals.

Royal picked up his sixth win of the season on the mound for Rain Roofing. He went the distance and gave up nine hits while striking out three.

It was nice for him to only go seven innings since pitchers only have 12 innings they can pitch in three days. So now we can have Corey for five innings in the next two days, McAllaster said.

La Grandes only negative was its five errors.

Weve got to clean that up a bit, McAllaster said. There were a couple of times we had some miscommunication.

Richland, Wash. 020 230 0 7 9 3

La Grande 203 552 x 17 20 5

Winston, Conley (4), Estes (5) and Brown; Royal and Slover. WP Royal (6-3). LP Winston.

La Grande hits Glasser 4, Fischer 4, Stroup 4, Abel 3, Mellinger, Thomas, Smith, Slover, Royal. 2B Fischer, Abel, Stroup. HR Abel, Stroup, Mellinger. RBI Abel 5, Stroup, 4, Mellinger 3, Fischer 2. SB Glasser 2, Thomas.