ATHENA — After his team took a 27-1 beating against La Grande in the opener of the District 3 Little League All-Star Tournament on Saturday, Ben Silva knew his team wasn’t that kind of doormat. Things would improve, he thought, and luckily there was another game to prove it.
On Monday, Milton-Freewater transformed into the bully, drilling Pilot Rock 16-2 and evening their record at 1-1 in pool play of the 9/10-year-old division of the tournament.
“Everybody was more relaxed and they had already seen what it was all about,” said Silva, the manager. “It made them more confident with the bat and we settled in, hitting like we should be.”
Coronado struck out eight batters in 3 2/3 innings pitched and only had one inning of trouble when Pilot Rock scored both its runs. He and his relief staff allowed only one hit in the game.
“That was pitching a great ball game,” he said. “This is probably, like, my best game ever.”
After striking out the first two batters of the fourth inning — which would be the last thanks to a 10-run mercy rule — pitch count finally caught up with Coronado. He turned the ball over to Dareagan Stephens for the final out, which also came by strikeout.
Coronado did plenty of damage with the bat as well, picking up three RBIs on offense. Two of those came on one swing, an 0-2 pitch in the third inning, when the big pitcher pulled a shot down into the left field corner. The ball hopped the orange, removable outfield fence in Athena for a ground-rule double.
But nearly every Milton-Freewater batter got in on the action. Seven of the team’s starters scored runs, many coming in bunches as the victors posted innings of five, three, four and four runs, respectively.
Gus Leber finished 2 for 2 with a single and a three-run, inside-the-park home run in the first inning. He scored three runs in the game. Stephens and Marcellus Brinkley also had two hits each and though Devin Humbert finished 1 for 4, he scored four times.
Pilot Rock’s only hit came from Cameron Smith, who singled and scored the first run for his team in the second inning.
Pilot Rock, playing in its first game of the tournament, got in a hole early and then struggled to find a way out, manager Cody Thacker said.
“This game, it was hard to get them going. They made a few errors and they started to get down on themselves,” Thacker said. “It’s all about the start.”
They’ll have a tough task coming up next. Pilot Rock takes on La Grande at noon in Athena today for the final game of pool play, needing a win to force a three-way tie at the top between it, Milton-Freewater and La Grande.
Milton-Freewater is idle today.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.