This story has been updated to correct the number of players on the 2017 state champion team and has updated stats.
Look out, California. Many of the players who took La Grande on a wild ride to the verge of the Little League World Series a year ago are back.
The La Grande Juniors All-Star team, which consists of several players who were on that 2017 state championship team that reached the West Regionals in San Bernardino, completed a perfect run to the Oregon Juniors state title with a 2-1 win over Raleigh Hills Wednesday afternoon in Beaverton.
The win came in the closest of the four games La Grande played at the state tournament. The previous three victories came by a combined score of 31-2, including a 9-2 win over the same Raleigh Hills team Sunday.
This one was much closer, but La Grande scored two early runs and rode the right arm of ace Sam Tsiatsos to the win.
Tsiatsos tossed a four-hitter, with the only Raleigh Hills run coming on an RBI single in the fourth inning. He struck out 11 batters, including the final two of the game with the tying run on base.
La Grande took a 1-0 first inning lead on an RBI single by Cole Jorgensen, and went up 2-0 in the second when Noah McIlmoil scored on an error.
The team is made up of nine players who went on an unprecedented run to the Oregon 12U state championship last year, when La Grande won six straight games after an early loss to claim the title in La Grande. That team reached the finals of the West Regional Tournament, where it lost to Walla Walla, 4-3, one win shy of the Little League World Series.
This team didn’t need to pull off the wild comeback. La Grande never trailed during the state tournament and was rarely tested. Two of the wins, a 10-0 victory over Parrish/West Salem and a 12-0 trouncing of Crook County, were called early due to the mercy rule.
Raleigh Hills was the only team to stay close to La Grande. The team trailed just 3-1 at point during the Sunday matchup before La Grande pulled away.
The win puts La Grande in the Junior West Regionals, which begin July 28 in San Jose, California. The championship game is set for Aug. 4, with the winner reaching the Junior World Series Aug. 12-19 in Taylor, Michigan.