WINNERS - AND GOOD SPORTS, TOO

August 22, 2001 11:00 pm

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

Wes McAllaster has a lot of respect for the game of baseball, and he preached that to his La Grande Rain Roofing baseball players all summer long.

You go out and play the game and respect the game, the American Legion baseball coach said. These kids did that. We werent flamboyant and (didnt) try to show anybody up, and we did what we had to do.

What they did was crush four different opponents in five games at the American Legion Baseball Northwest Class A Regional Tournament in Powell, Wyo. Rain Roofing won Tuesdays championship game 14-4 over the Burlington (Wash.) Sox.

That Rain Roofing won so easily (five wins all by 10 runs) may have surprised some, but being handed the tournaments sportsmanship trophy was moreso a surprise. The tournaments umpires unanimously gave the La Grande team that honor.

That just tells you how the kids behaved up there, La Grande manager Dave Mellinger said. They let their bats do the talking and that was it.

McAllaster accepted the trophy and admits hell be selfish with it.

I dont think Im going to let the Legion have this one, he said. Im going to keep it and put it up on my office wall. Its neat to be recognized for that.

Rain Roofing finished its remarkable run with a 31-9 record, including a 15-game winning streak that started July 30 with an 11-6 win over Pendletons Hodgen Distributing. La Grande proceeded to sweep the district tournament in Hermiston and the state tournament in Portland.

Those were just warmups, however, for the regional tournament, the last rung on the ladder for Class A American Legion teams. (The AAA teams will hold a World Series in Yakima this month.) After hitting .365 at state, Rain Roofing improved that to .418 at regionals with a .673 slugging percentage.

Four players hit eight home runs, including three by left fielder Tanner Abel. Abel led Rain Roofing with a .556 average and 13 RBIs, numbers that would have won the tournament MVP trophy any other time. Burlington, however, got that consolation prize for its Zach Clem, who hit .629 with five home runs.

Hes a good player. I dont dispute him getting it, but Im sure we had some good numbers, too, McAllaster said.

Those numbers included catcher Shane Slovers .455 average and third baseman Drew Fischers .444 average. Right fielder Dollen Stroup hit .429 with 10 RBIs. First baseman Ty Mellinger hit .389 and shortstop Zach Glasser hit .364. Center fielder Aaron Thomas had 11 stolen bases, including five in a 19-9 win over Bitterroot, Mont., on Monday.

Corey Royal and Adam Kleck each started two games and had two wins. Jimmy Baynes pitched a one-hitter against Powell on Saturday.

The teams other contributors were second baseman Jason Smith and utility player Jeremy George.

It may be just as well that the team has no more games this season. College is just around the weekend, literally for some of the players. Baynes leaves with his family today for George Fox, which starts school Monday. Abel is going to Linn-Benton Community College in Albany and Mellinger to Lane Community College in Eugene.

Its too bad, really, that the season is over. McAllaster said the players were still improving, still swinging the bats strong as the tournament came to a close.

We just got better and better and that confidence just kept growing and growing. There

wasnt any arrogance about it.