CHEHALIS — Willapa Harbor’s all-stars misplaced their tickets to Eastern Oregon somewhere on the basepaths of Bearcat Stadium.
Stymied by the pitching of Jeremy Marten and Brock Castleberry and its own baserunning misadvantures, Willapa Harbor-South Beach fell to KWRL (Kalama-Woodland-Ridgefield-La Center), 2-1, on the final day of the Southern Washington State 15-year-old Babe Ruth Tournament on Sunday at the sun-kissed Chehalis High School field.
By surviving the loser-out opener to Sunday’s doubleheader, KWRL earned the right to join Twin Cities of Centralia-Chehalis in regionals at Baker City, Ore. Twin Cities went on to beat KWRL, 11-3, in the state championship game later in the day.
Willapa Harbor placed third in the six-team state tournament.
Had it qualified for regionals, Willapa Harbor (actually composed primarily of South Beach products) would have been required to petition national Babe Ruth headquarters for the right to add players to its post-season roster. Two of the 10 players the Twin Harborites suited up at state would have missed regionals due to prior commitments.
It would be an understatement to say that Willapa Harbor had its chances in what was easily the lowest-scoring game of the tournament (at least 11 runs had been scored in every previous contest). The Willapa-South Beach crew put its first two batters aboard in each of the first four innings but mustered only one run out of those threats.
Willapa, in fact, caught a break to produce even that marker.
Isaiah Quinby singled to open the fourth inning and stole second and third while Drake Mitby was drawing a walk.
With the infield playing in, Matt Minton grounded to short. Drake Estes’ throw home beat Quinby by a fair margin, but the ball popped out of the catcher’s glove.
Willapa Harbor had an opportunity for a truly big inning. Mitby, however, was hung out to dry on a bungled squeeze play and Minton, running all the way, was the victim of a rare unassisted double play by a center fielder when Dylan Terwilliger handled Kobe Christian’s fly to shallow center and jogged in to step on second base. Willapa manager Mike Allton (who was also the third-base coach) took the blame for the latter mishap, saying he believed there were two outs and had instructed Minton to keep running.
The way Willapa Harbor’s Tyson Johnson was pitching, it appeared as if even the 1-0 lead might hold up.
Following a leadoff walk in the KWRL half of the fourth, however, Kevin Miser doubled into the right-centerfield gap to score Estes all the way from first. Miser advanced to third on a tardy throw home, a play that loomed large when Shane Davis bounced a single through the drawn-in infield to deliver what proved to be the winning run.
Castleberry, who relieved starter Marten in the fifth, allowed Willapa Harbor only one other opportunity. Johnson singled with two outs in the fifth and took second on an errant pickoff throw. Castleberry then slammed the door by retiring the final seven batters.
Willapa Harbor stranded eight runners — seven in the opening three innings. The Willapa-South Beach club left the bases loaded in the first and had two runners thrown out at the plate (one in a rundown) in the second.
Johnson, meanwhile, was stalwart on the mound throughout. The tall right-hander scattered seven hits while walking only one and striking out five.
“It was really a special pitching performance by Tyson Johnson,” Allton said. “He pitched two magnificent games in this tournament. It’s unfortunate he wasn’t rewarded with a win in this game.”
Willapa Harbor played errorless defense behind him, with Zach Allton contributing some nice stops at shortstop.
The Quinbys, Isaiah and Sam, had two hits each, with Isaiah’s output including a double. Marten went 3-for-3 and Miser doubled twice — reaching the left-field fence with the second — for KWRL.
Willapa Harbor overcame some adversity in round-robin pool play to even make it to the final day of the tourney. The Twin Harborites were outscored 62-37 in round-robin games, but earned the final single-elimination berth on a tiebreaker by virtue of its 10-7 win over Camas-Washougal on Thursday.
As it was, the third-place finish was the highest at state by a Willapa Harbor Babe Ruth team in several years.
“I liked the way we battled in the heat,” Allton concluded.
Will Har 000 100 0 — 1 7 0 KWRL 000 200 x — 2 7 2
Johnson and S. Quinby; Marten, Castleberry (5) and Miser.