AURORA — Poised for a title run, the La Grande Legacy Ford Legends American Legion baseball team saw its season end in heartbreak.
After winning the first three games of the Oregon American Legion A state tournament at North Marion High School, the tournament was canceled on Saturday, Aug. 7, due to a positive COVID-19 test result from a member of the La Grande baseball program, according to a report from Pamplin Media Group.
“I really felt like we were playing at a level that would have been difficult to beat and would have loved to have been able to finish the tournament and see the kids have the opportunity to come out on top,” La Grande head coach Parker McKinley said.
The Legends cruised past Mountainside 13-3 in the first round before one-run victories in the next two rounds. La Grande had an automatic bid into the championship game regardless of the outcome of the semifinal matchup. The Legends were set to play Mountainside in the semifinal matchup before the tournament was canceled. Eight teams traveled to Aurora to participate in the state tournament.
Including the three playoff wins, La Grande compiled a 22-4 record on the year and was riding a 14-game win streak.
“There were some very tough opponents, and my hats off to them and their programs, but I really did feel like we were the team to beat and we were going to be very hard to beat,” McKinley said.
Led by a strong pitching rotation, the Legends dominated opposing teams this year and held opponents to under four runs per game on average. Riley Miller led the way with a 4-0 record, while Devin Bell and Logan Williams both went 3-0 on the year. Jace Schow, Nick Bornstedt and Sam Tsiatsos stepped up to solidify the rotation and all recorded two wins on the season.
Bell excelled at the plate during the 2021 season, leading the team with 40 hits and 35 RBIs. The senior hit .556, drew 16 walks and scored 36 runs. Leadoff hitter Payton Cooper scored the most runs with 43 and hit for an average of .388. Cooper, Miller and Brodrick Hood are the lone graduating seniors of the group.
La Grande carried those numbers into postseason play and rolled through the first three rounds of the double-elimination tournament. Following a 10-run victory over Mountainside in the first round, the Legends defeated the Eugene Ole Athletics 4-3 and held off a late rally in a 7-6 win over the Marion Berries in the quarterfinals. Cole Jorgensen recorded four hits, four RBIs and a .364 batting average during the state tournament. Cesar Rodriguez went 3-for-4 at the plate with four walks and four runs scored.
The Legends last won a state championship in 2011, and before that in 2001. The stars seemed to align this season for a championship every 10 years, as this year’s squad combined quality pitching with timely hitting and a deep roster.
“It’s heartbreaking from the baseball standpoint, but also just hope the young man who came down ill heals quickly and without any issues,” McKinley said.