It could have been over early.
In a must-win game Friday, Central Vancouver trailed by one run in the third inning at the Junior League Western Regional.
Woodcreek had loaded the bases with two outs. Pitcher Nick Simonsen dug deep, striking out the Northern California team’s hitter.
Rejuvenated, Central Vancouver went on to win 5-4 and stay alive in the tournament for 13- and 14-year olds at Clark College.
“That was the biggest strikeout of the game,” Central Vancouver’s Dawson Allen said. “Big pitching by Nick. I couldn’t even say anything to him. I just gave him a hug.”
Central Vancouver faces another must-win game Sunday against West Valley of Yakima. The host team is among four with 1-1 records in a six-team pool, from which two advance to the semifinals. Win Sunday and Central will likely face a tiebreaker, determined by the lowest ratio of runs allowed divided by defensive outs.
But Central won’t have its ace in Sunday’s game. Simonsen threw 96 pitches over five innings Friday, meaning he can’t pitch Sunday per tournament rules.
“He’s our ace and we had to burn him,” manager Terry Barnes said. “If we had lost today, we’re done for the tournament.”
But Central will still have Simonsen’s bat. In the fifth inning, the husky No. 3 hitter knocked a triple over the left fielder’s head to tie the game 4-4. Two pitches later, he scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.
Simonsen’s 2-for-4, two RBI day highlighted an eight-hit game for Central, whose hitters were stymied in an opening-game loss to Parrish of Salem, Ore., Wednesday. Allen added two doubles and scored twice. Royce Cone had two hits as well.
Woodcreek’s batters had just three hits, and only one hit after Simonsen’s big strikeout in the third.
Two nice plays by shortstop Damon McPherson snuffed out any chance of a seventh-inning rally. He threw out Woodcreek’s first runner deep in the hole, then smothered a hard-hit grounder and threw out the next batter.
“We had some great defense,” Simonsen said. “Our bats came alive today a lot more than (Wednesday). We just pulled through.”
West Valley (Yakima) 11, Parrish (Ore.) 9 — West Valley held off a late-inning rally to move to 1-1 in pool play.
Bryce Reynolds and Levi Hearn each had two hits for the Washington champions.
Mario Sanchez had two hits for the Oregon champions (1-1).
Anchorage (Alaska) 16, Nampa Valley (Idaho) 4 — An eight-run third inning helped Anchorage move to 2-0 in pool play.
Max Costello went 3-4 in a game called after five innings.
Nampa Valley fell to 0-2 and will not advance.
Senior Little League
Columbia Little League defeated Burlington/Central of Montana 11-1.
Columbia moved to 2-2 in pool play at the West Regional in Ontario, Calif.
Antonio Butler was 3-for-3 with a home run, a triple and a single.
Columbia still has three pool games remaining in the eight-team tournament for ages 16-18.