Hazel Dell Metro excited as tourney hosts

Babe Ruth 15s regional begins Monday at Propstra

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

Published:

Updated: August 1, 2011, 1:03 PM

 

DID YOU KNOW?

Hazel Dell Metro has sent 17 teams to a Babe Ruth World Series. An additional 11 HDM clubs have lost in the regional finals.

Sure, Hazel Dell Metro is the host team for the Babe Ruth Baseball 15-year-olds Pacific Northwest Regional Tournament. But there is no doubt that the Vancouver team deserves to be part of the week-long battle for a berth in the Babe Ruth World Series.

The 10-team tournament begins Monday at Hudson’s Bay High School’s Propstra Stadium. Metro plays its first game on Tuesday.

Ten of the 15 players on this team have been Metro all-stars for three years, and played last summer in the 14-year-old Babe Ruth World Series after winning state and regional crowns. HDM all-star teams are formed by a vote of the league’s players.

“Last year we played a lot of good baseball,” pitcher Alec Dannat said. “We played a lot of good baseball teams and beat a lot of good baseball teams.”

To return to the World Series as 15-year-olds, Metro must outduel nine other teams while playing six games over five days. Pool play runs through Friday. Hazel Dell Metro opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday against the Alberta champions from Calgary.

The top two teams from each of the two pools meet in the semifinals on Saturday, with those winners meeting for the championship at 6 p.m. on Saturday. The champion here advances to the Babe Ruth World Series for 15-year-olds later this month in Jamestown, N.Y.

“I want to go out with a bang with Metro,” center fielder Jake Lewis said. “Hopefully we can go back to the World Series.

Metro went unbeaten at regionals as 14-year-olds to earn a 2010 Babe Ruth World Series berth. That experience, plus some success against older players at a couple of wood-bat tournaments this summer, is reason for confidence. But if the players were tempted to look ahead, Centralia handed them a dose of reality by rallying in the last inning to win the Southern Washington state tournament title.

“We thought we had it,” Lewis said. “We got ahead of ourselves.”

Including the state tournament, the HDM all-star team is 22-8 this summer. It played in a couple of 19-and-under wood bat tournaments and made it out of pool play both times.

This is the third time that Propstra Stadium, which opened in 1998, has hosted a Babe Ruth regional tournament. Two years ago, hosting this regional was suggested by Dennis Zyph, the manager for this HDM squad.

Jack Laub, the force behind Hazel Dell Metro Babe Ruth since its 1958 founding, wasn’t immediately convinced. When the HDM 13-year-olds lost 3-2 to Kennewick in the state semifinals at Propstra two summers ago, his first instinct was to forget about applying for the 2011 regional.

Then Laub watched as Jay Becker ran back and forth between the foul polls outside the outfield fence to complete his post-game workout even though the season had just ended. Seeing Becker’s commitment, Laub said, helped convince him to go to bat for a chance to host this tournament.

HDM’s strength is pitching and defense. With eight pitchers, this team has even more pitching than the squad that went to the World Series a year ago.

“If this team hits the ball, we win,” Dannat said.

Zyph said he and assistant coaches Bary Becker and Jeff Kammer will watch today’s games to get a look at the competition before deciding how to employ their pitchers during pool play.

Jay Becker, the shortstop when not pitching, said the most notable difference between 14-year-olds and 15-year-olds is the cleaner games.

“Now every little mistake is magnified because they don’t happen that often,” he said.

Also, magnifying this tournament is the location. But the Hazel Dell Metro players are excited to be playing a regional at home. They see the comfort of sleeping in their own beds and the support from the Propstra crowds as advantages.

“There is definitely some added pressure,” Dannat said. “This is our summer right now, and we don’t want it to end. We want to be able to stay together and take it as far as we can.”

Hazel Dell Metro roster

Alec Dannat, Andrew Haley, Brady Benson, Brooks Hanson, Bryson Oury, Hayden Humphrey, Jake Lewis, Jason Harmson, Jay Becker, Justin Aspon, Kaiden Grotte, Micah Fitzpatrick, Sam Walker, Seth Rayburn, Tyler Jared

Manager: Dennis Zyph. Coaches: Jeff Kammer, Gary Becker.

IF YOU GO

What: Pacific Northwest 13-15 year-old Babe Ruth Tournament.

When: Monday through Saturday. Four games each day beginning at 10 a.m. Championship is 6 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Propstra Stadium at Hudson’s Bay High School.

Cost: $5 per game or $40 for tournament pass good for a family or individuals.

At stake: Tournament champion advances to Babe Ruth World Series in Jamestown, N.Y., later this month.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST REGIONAL

American Pool

W L

Hazel Dell Metro 0 0

N. Bitteroot Valley (Florence, Mont.) 0 0

Puyallup (Midland) 0 0

Calgary 0 0

S. Coast (Coos Bay, Ore.) 0 0

National Pool

W L

Ellensburg 0 0

Centralia 0 0

Lewiston 0 0

Green River, Wyo. 0 0

The Dalles, Ore. 0 0

Monday

Ellensburg vs. Green River, 10 a.m.

North Bitteroot Valley vs. Midland, 1 p.m.

Calgary vs. South Coast, 4 p.m.

The Dalles vs. Lewiston, 7 p.m.

Tuesday

Midland vs. South Coast, 10 a.m.

Green River vs. Lewiston, 1 p.m.

Calgary vs. Hazel Dell Metro, 4 p.m.

The Dalles vs. Centralia, 7 p.m.

Wednesday

Ellenburg vs. Lewiston, 10 a.m.

North Bitteroot Valley vs. South Coast, 1 p.m.

Green River vs. Centralia, 4 p.m.

Midland vs. Hazel Dell Metro, 7 p.m.

Thursday

North Bitteroot Valley vs. Calgary, 10 a.m.

Ellensburg vs. The Dalles, 1 p.m.

Centralia vs. Lewiston, 4 p.m.

Hazel Dell Metro vs. South Coast, 7 p.m.

Friday

The Dalles vs. Green River, 10 a.m.

Calgary vs. Midland, 1 p.m.

North Bitteroot Valley vs. Hazel Dell Metro, 4 p.m.

Ellensburg vs. Centralia, 7 p.m.

Saturday

Semifinals

American 1 vs. National 2, 10 a.m.

National 1 vs. American 2, 1 p.m.

Championship

Semifinal winners, 6 p.m.

Champion advances to Babe Ruth World Series Aug. 20-27 in Jamestown, N.Y.