If the La Grande Junior All-Stars are going to make a deep run at the West Regional Tournament in San Jose, California, they’ll have to rekindle the magic last year’s All-Stars found at the 2017 state tournament.

Nogales, Arizona, broke a tie with three runs in the fifth inning, then added on in the seventh and — despite recording just four hits — topped La Grande, 7-1, in the first round of the West Regional Sunday morning.

“It was a tough game, a tough loss,” Head Coach Doug Schow said. “The score doesn’t show how well the boys played.”

La Grande out-hit Arizona, 7-4, and neither team committed an error. The difference in the game, though, was La Grande issuing nine walks, including seven in the final three innings. Five Nogales batters who were walked in the late stages of the game came around to score. Nogales, by contrast, didn’t walk any batters.

“That was pretty much the deciding factor,” Schow said. “Defensively, we outplayed them.”

Nogales scored an early run for a 1-0 first-inning lead, but La Grande tied the score in the home half of the frame on a Cole Jorgensen RBI single.

That was the only inning in which La Grande posed a serious threat. Only two other times did La Grande get a runner in scoring position.

Pitcher Sam Tsiatsos was dealt the loss despite allowing just one hit in his 4-1/3 innings. He gave up three runs, walked four batters and struck out three.

Of the four La Grande pitchers, only Jace Schow didn’t surrender a walk.

The loss dropped La Grande into an elimination game, where it faced Pearl City, Hawaii, at 11:30 a.m. today. A win there would move La Grande into a 9 a.m. elimination game Tuesday morning.

After Sunday’s loss, La Grande needs five straight wins in order to get to the tournament championship, and seven wins to claim the title.

It’s a spot several of the players on this team were in a year ago in the Oregon Little League state tournament, when the team won six straight elimination games to win the title.

Now they have to do it again.

“We’re not out of this,” Schow said. “We just have to keep after it, keep our heads and don’t lose focus on what we’re doing. One game at a time. We have to keep winning.”

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