The members of the La Grande Juniors baseball team had to play the role of comeback kids — and get a bit of help — to advance to the semifinals of the Junior West Regional Tournament Tuesday.
Heber Olson hit the game-tying RBI single in the sixth inning, and Sam Tsiatsos scored the eventual winning run on a balk in the top of the seventh as La Grande, the Oregon state champions, rallied for a 4-3 win over Boulder City, Nevada, to stay undefeated in the Junior West Regional Tournament in San Jose, California.
“The kids were staying in the game and battling the whole time, (and) we kept putting pressure on the pitcher,” head coach Doug Schow said. “We had a couple key hits down in the lineup.”
In the sixth inning, Cole Shafer reached on a single, moved to second on a bunt and to third on a ground ball. Olson followed with a two-out RBI single to right field to even the score at 3-3.
In the seventh, Tsiatsos singled with one out, stole second and third base, and scored when Nevada pitcher Dylan Spencer balked on a pick-off move to first base, Schow said.
“Doesn’t happen all the time,” he said of scoring the winning run on a balk. “I don’t think I’ve been on the winning (side of that kind of play before). I’ve been on a team where we balked a run in to tie the game.”
Tsiatsos, who came in in relief, struck out two batters in the seventh to finish off the win despite two La Grande errors and a walk in the frame, which made it interesting.
Tsiatsos gave up just one hit, struck out five and walked one in 2-1/3 innings for the win in relief. Lakoda Huff, La Grande’s starter, went 4-2/3 innings, allowing three runs — two earned — on four hits with three walks and two strikeouts.
“We were going to ride him as long as we could,” Schow said of Huff. “He kept us in a close game.”
The Oregon state champs never led until the final inning, but twice pulled even — once on the aforementioned Olson single, and once in the third inning on Owen Rinker’s two-run double that tied the score at 2-2.
“Owen came up with a clutch hit (with the) double to the fence,” Schow said. “Every day it’s a couple new kids doing something with a bat or making a play, (or) stepping up and throwing strikes for us.”
Rinker, Shafer and Jace Schow each had two of La Grande’s nine hits.
La Grande next faces Golden Hill out of Southern California, the only other team yet to suffer a loss in the tournament.
“They’re a pretty sound ball club,” Doug Schow said of Golden Hill. “They’ve got speed, good bats, (good) arms. We’re going to have to be at the top of our game to beat those guys.”
The squads meet at 4 p.m. Thursday. The winner advances to the championship Saturday, while the loser plays Friday for a shot to get back into the title game.
The winning squad needs only one more victory for the regional crown, while the losing team would require three wins.