CHEHALIS — With a district championship twice in their grasp, Montesano’s Little League all-stars had it snatched away by clutch Chehalis hits.
Daniel Fagerness’ bases-clearing double capped a four-run seventh inning that gave Chehalis a stunning 17-16 victory over Montesano in a winner-take-all District III Little League Major League Tournament title contest Saturday at Stan Hedwall Park.
Chehalis advances to the state tournament beginning Saturday at Salmon Creek in the Vancouver area. The Lewis County club will face an opponent from the Port Angeles-Kitsap Peninsula area in the opening round.
Montesano settled for second at district despite an eye-popping display of power throughout the tourney. The Harborites slugged 20 homers in six district contests — including six in Saturday’s showdown.
Parker Plato blasted three homers and drove in seven runs. Teegan Zillyett added a pair of mammoth round-trippers and Dakoyta Reninger also homered for Monte.
But one out away from victory on two occasions, Montesano was unable to close the door on the determined Chehalins.
Consecutive homers by Zillyett and Plato in the top of the sixth gave the visitors a 13-9 advantage.
With Lane Douglass in his fourth inning of relief, Monte still led by four with two outs in the Chehalis half of the sixth. Fagerness, however, stroked a two-run single off the base of the fence in right center and Brock Jones followed with a game-tying homer to center before Plato took the mound to record the final out.
Montesano quickly regrouped and appeared to again settle matters in its half of the seventh with, incredibly, another set of back-to-back homers.
After Sam Winter reached on an error, Reninger cleared the left-field fence. The left-handed swinging Zillyett followed with a tape-measure shot to right that was estimated at 330 feet.
Chehalis quickly loaded the bases against Plato in its half of the seventh on Ryan Pedersen’s double, Cooper Viggers’ bloop single and a hit batsman. Cy Bunker, the runner at first, was called out for interference when he attempted to leap over Tyler Hampson’s grounder to second. Hampson was awarded first on the play and Pedersen and Viggers were sent back to their respective bases.
Zillyett made a nice running catch of Kayden Kelly’s drive to center and nearly doubled Viggers off second while Pedersen tagged at third and scored after the grab.
That left Montesano again one out away from the title. Colton Baker, however, kept things alive with a single off the third baseman’s glove that re-loaded the bases and brought Fagerness — who had already collected three hits — back to the plate.
The Chehalis standout drilled Plato’s first pitch into the gap in right-center. Two runs scored easily and Baker slid across the plate narrowly ahead of the relay. Fagerness finished the day with four hits and six RBIs.
Montesano manager Jon Parker Jr. didn’t fault his team’s effort.
“We fought hard, we fought like crazy,” Parker said. “We hit the ball the way we can. It’s difficult to lose like this but I’m proud of the kids and proud to be their coach.”
The high-scoring nature of the contest came as no surprise, considering Montesano’s output throughout the tournament (the Harborites scored in double figures in five of their six contests) and restrictions that rendered some top pitchers on both sides ineligible.
Fagerness, who had blanked Monte in Tuesday’s winners bracket final, wasn’t nearly as sharp with his control in this contest and reached his 85-pitch limit in the fourth.
Plato had tagged him for a two-run homer in the first and a three-run shot in the third. Zillyett’s two-run triple off reliever Dillon Smith highlighted a four-run Montesano fourth that gave the visitors a lead they maintained until the heartbreaking climax.
The top four in the batting order accounted for 11 of Monte’s 13 hits. The diminutive Plato went 4-for-5. Zillyett added three hits, while Douglass and Reninger contributed two apiece.
Pedersen’s homered (a two-run shot in the second inning) and doubled for Chehalis.
Monte 203 422 3 — 16 13 2 Che 043 024 4 — 17 12 3
Zillyett, Douglass (3), Plato (6) and Douglass, Reninger; Fagerness, Smith (4), Pedersen (6), Viggers (7) and Baker.