ADAMS — The opening game of the District 3 Little League all-star tournament started well enough for Pilot Rock as the boys came to bat in the top of the first inning. They drew walks, took extra bases on wild pitches and jumped out to a 2-0 lead before Wallowa Valley even had a chance to swing the sticks.
The 11/12-year-olds’ team capitalized on easy mistakes, but when it came their turn to play the field, the miscues were even greater. By the time Pilot Rock regained its focus, the game was half over and the score leaned heavily in favor of Wallowa Valley, 11-4.
Even after a fervent push in the fourth and fifth innings, the hole proved too deep and Pilot Rock fell by a 14-10 final.
Wallowa Valley scored four runs in the bottom of the second inning and six more in the third. The rallies each started with bases on balls before big hits from the batters below them in the lineup. Caevan Murray made the loudest bang, a two-run home run in the third inning.
Pilot Rock held leads after its halves of the first and second innings, but staring down a seven-run deficit soon after that was intimidating, catcher Sean Simmons said. Though one huge inning could bring the boys back into the game — which proved true in the fifth — team morale wasn’t in a rallying mood at that point.
“Everybody kept putting their heads down but I kept telling them to stay focused and watch the game,” Simmons said. “Everybody started paying attention at the end.”
After an out to start the fifth inning, Ed McCall reached on a single. Then Lane Wilhelm tripled him home before Houston Elumbaugh brought Wilhelm in with a double. That made the score 11-6, but Pilot Rock was just getting started.
The next five batters each reached base, with three of them touching home plate and narrowing the gap to 11-10. Even when the inning ended on a basket-style catch by Wallowa Valley center fielder Chris Bathke, the visiting team’s spirits were bubbling.
“We thought we had gotten it back,” Wilhelm said,” but I guess they decided to come back with us.”
Wallowa Valley plated another three runs in the bottom half of that inning and held Pilot Rock in the sixth to close out the contest.
The loss puts a serious damper on Pilot Rock’s chances to reach the state tournament by winning the district title, but doesn’t eliminate them. The boys will take on Milton-Freewater at 7 p.m. today in Adams as pool play continues. Only the top two teams in the four-squad, red pool that also includes Union County will advance to the semifinals on Tuesday to meet teams from the blue pool.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.