The Trail AA Orioles were one win away from securing a trip to the Washington State American Legion championship, but a loss in the penultimate game at Al K. Jackson Park in Spokane quashed their chances.
After winning their opening game against Central Valley 4-2, the Orioles fell to Mt. Spokane in five innings, then beat Ferris 10-5 and Shadle Park 4-0 to advance to the semifinal match against Pullman – the top team in the American League division this season with a 9-0 record.
A win would have sent the AA Orioles to the State championship for the second year in a row but Pullman pulled it out on Monday afternoon, 4-2, to end the Os bid for a State title.
“This weekend we didn’t play our best,” said head coach Kyle Mace. “But that’s two years in a row we’ve showed very well, and teams are quite surprised with us. People aren’t taking Trail lightly anymore and that’s the nice thing. We saw three number ones (pitchers) … which is nice, people know that we’re here to play.”
Down 2-1 going into the bottom of the sixth, Pullman scored two runs with two out to take a 4-1 lead. However, with the score 4-2 and two out in the top of the seventh, the Orioles rallied putting runners on first and third.
“We hit a fly ball to centre field and the guy literally laid out and as he’s laying out, it pops out, he does a barrell roll and catches it with his bare hand,” said Mace. “It was something I’d never seen before.”
The incredible catch ended the game and Trail’s season, but it was the team’s inability to plate baserunners that was the Orioles undoing, as they left the bases loaded twice in the final match.
“Our bats did not show up this weekend,” said Mace. “I know we scored some runs, but we didn’t hit in situations we needed to hit. When it came to crunch time, we just didn’t get that clutch hit we needed.”
The Orioles were also without pitching ace Austin Tambellini who was ill, but pitching was not an issue.
“Our pitching was very good as it has been all year. We fielded the ball pretty good, we made some errors but that’s expected in kids’ ball, but mainly we just didn’t hit.”
The team was devastated after the loss, but the ability to compete against the best the American League division has to offer does give the team motivation and confidence going into next season.
“At the end of the day, the kids gave it all they had, and at the end of the day you can’t get mad at them, we just came up short. It’s good it’ll make them burn and hopefully it drives them and burns them so that next year they want it a little bit more.”
With a young team, the AA Orioles expect almost the full roster back next year, and Mace says there has been some discussion about moving the Orioles to the American Legion division.
“Better competition for us and the other teams are pushing for the move up so we’ll wait and see.”