It’s a back-to-back for back-to-back Saturday for the Hazel Dell Metro’s 15-year-old Babe Ruth All-Stars.
Win two baseball games at Propstra Stadium, and this team will win its second consecutive Babe Ruth Pacific Northwest Regional championship. Metro plays in the first semifinal game at 10 a.m. today against Centralia. Win that, and it will play for the title at 6 p.m.
Oregon teams from The Dalles and Coos Bay clash in the second semifinal, set for a 1 p.m. start. The champion advances to the Babe Ruth World Series later this month at Jamestown, N.Y.
Hazel Dell Metro won all four of its pool-play games, finishing the preliminaries Friday with a 10-7 win over Montana champion North Bitterroot Valley.
But the intrigue Friday was the final game of the pool-play phase, with Southern Washington champion Centralia and Northern Washington champion Kennewick battling for the opportunity to challenge HDM at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Centralia beat Ellensburg 7-2 in Friday’s final pool-play game to advance to today’s semifinals.
On July 24, Centralia rallied for six runs in the last inning to beat Hazel Dell Metro 6-3 in the championship game of the Southern Washington tournament.
“The Centralia loss, that was big for us,” Metro manager Dennis Zyph said. “The guys talk about that every day.”
While Centralia faced elimination Friday against Ellensburg, Hazel Dell Metro had the luxury of resting its big arms for today’s challenge. The hometown team had clinched the top spot in its pool on Thursday, so the game against Montana was a chance for five reserve players to see significant action.
Zyph said he was confident his guys would deliver a strong effort despite the lack of urgency to Friday’s game.
“I told people, ‘We’re going to have higher intensity,’ ” Zyph said, noting that the backup players were hungry for their opportunity.
Metro produced 10 hits in the game, and hustled its way to an early lead. HDM scored three runs from one hit in the top of the first inning, and led 4-0 after two frames.
The North Bitterroot all-stars hung around by scoring three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and three more in the sixth. But the Montana team stranded six runners in scoring position and had two thrown out at third base.
Metro displayed some timely hitting along with some heads-up defense. Seth Rayborn had a two-out hit to score two insurance runs in the sixth inning. Sam Walker, who got credit for the win as the second of three pitchers, knocked in two runs and came around to score when Metro’s lead grew to 7-1 in the top of the fourth.
Brooks Hanson had three singles for Metro, and Micah Fitzpatrick contributed two singles.
This is the third summer together for the core group of Hazel Dell Metro players and coaches. Two years ago, they lost a close game in the state semifinals. Last summer they were unbeaten through the regionals and played at the Babe Ruth World Series for 14-year-olds.
All of that positive experience should come in handy today. Zyph said this team won’t take anything for granted.
“You have to go out and get that first one, and we will be focused for that,” Zyph said.
In other words, he won’t be holding anything back this morning for a possible championship game at 6 p.m.
“It’d be sweet to get to back to back World Series,” Zyph said.
BABE RUTH PACIFIC NORTHWEST 15YO REGIONAL
Aug. 1-6 at Propstra Stadium in Vancouver
Hazel Dell Metro 4 0
South Coast (Coos Bay, Ore.) 3 1
Puyallup (Midland) 2 2
N. Bitteroot Valley (Mont.) 1 3
Calgary 0 4
The Dalles, Ore. 3 1
Centralia 3 1
Ellensburg 2 2
Lewiston 2 2
Green River, Wyo. 0 4
The Dalles 17, Green River 4
Midland 11, Calgary 7
Hazel Dell Metro 10, North Bitteroot Valley 7
Centralia 7, Ellensburg 2
Hazel Dell Metro vs. Centralia, 10 a.m.
The Dalles vs. South Coast, 1 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 6 p.m.
Tickets: $5 per game, or $40 for a family tournament pass to all games. Champion advances to Babe Ruth World Series Aug. 20-27 in Jamestown, N.Y.
HAZEL DELL METRO 10, NORTH BITTERROOT VALLEY 7
HD Metro 310 302 1—10 11 3
Montana 001 303 0— 7 9 4
Hazel Dell Metro
Pitchers — Brooks Hanson 3 IP; Sam Walker 2⅓ IP, win; Kaiden Grotte 1⅔ IP. Highlights — Brooks Hanson 3 singles, 2 RBI; Micah Fitzpatrick 2 singles; Sam Walker double; Alec Dannat single; Brady Benson single; Hayden Humphrey single; Tyler Jared single.