ADAMS — Four balls.
Four balls equal one walk. In this case that one walk generated Pendleton's fourth run of the sixth inning. And as Ryan Stahl advanced 60 feet to first, the loaded bases shifted in turn, bringing home David Naughton.
One walk, one final run, one District 3 championship.
Pendleton built a final-inning rally like nothing else its offense had produced earlier in the contest to cap a comeback for a 8-7 victory Thursday, earning the team a spot in the Little League all-star state tournament later this month.
But leadoff boy Brenton Stearns, the No. 8 batter, got on base — the hard way by taking a pitch off his helmet. Pendleton followed with five straight singles, more than doubling its hit total for the game.
La Grande pitcher G.T. Blackman finally recorded an out, but not before Pendleton tied the score at 7-7 and still had a runner at every base. Enter Ryan Stahl, a lower, middle of the lineup third baseman who’d yet to hit Thursday.
He ran the count full against Blackman, but said he wasn’t worried about the outcome of his at-bat. The way the inning was going, Stahl almost couldn’t imagine a scenario ending negatively for his team.
“I was really excited and knew I’d get on base one way or another,” Stahl said. “I guess we just kept with it, stayed on it.”
The next pitch, the last of the game, flew wide of the strike zone, ushering Pendleton on to Gresham for the state games. Centennial Little League will host that tournament, which is slated to start July 21.
Each team held leads in Thursday’s championship game, with a different team on top in almost each inning.
“Every time we play this ball club, we run into this,” manager Rob Naughton said, pointing to the meeting with La Grande in pool play during the tournament, a 9-7 Pendleton victory. “It almost always went back and forth every inning, same as this game.
“We had a few instances where we had to remind the boys in the dugout, ‘Hey, don’t give up. Don’t give up.’ We were teaching them patience at the plate.”
Patience was key for the winning run that wrapped up Pendleton’s undefeated tournament, but against La Grande’s starting pitcher Andrew Peasley, anticipation worked better. A lanky, early developer, Peasley had some zip on his pitches. His fast balls had long ago outgrown Little League fields.
To have any success against that, which Pendleton did, the batters had to get their swinging motion going much earlier. Which is what David Naughton perfected in the first inning when he crushed an opposite-field home run for the game’s first score.
“You’ve got to load up early and start your swing,” said Naughton, who wore a championship game home run medal around his neck in addition to his first-place medal following the game.
Naughton finished 3 for 4 with two RBIs.
Bryson Pierce also had multiple hits, going 2 for 3, including a second-chance single in the sixth inning. Pierce fouled a ball to the catcher behind home plate in the at-bat, but the La Grande boy couldn’t make the play. Two pitches later, Pierce blooped a ball into left field, the second of Pendleton’s five straight hits.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.