After sweeping a pair of games from Mt. Spokane on Monday, the 9-1 Trail AA Orioles were poised to challenge for the National division title against the equally proficient 9-1 West Valley Eagles on Tuesday at Butler Park.
Unfortunately, the Eagles clawed their way back from 3-0 deficits in both games of the double-bill, defeating the Orioles 4-3 and 8-3 to claim the division title.
“They (Trail) have a great team, and it’s always been a battle with them, so to travel this far and come out with it (the division title) we’re really happy with that,” said West Valley coach Ron Mackie.”Our defence is keeping us in games, and our hitting goes up and down a little bit, but they battle.”
The Orioles played four game in two days, and a major breakdown in the fifth inning of the final match proved the team’s undoing, as they squandered a 3-0 lead, made three errors, and gave up five unearned runs on their way to an 8-3 loss. But for Trail coach Kyle Mace, the fatigue-factor is no excuse.
“I don’t think fatigue was anything, they had the whole weekend off so they should have been rested and ready to go. I just think we have won so many games in a row (seven) and the kids are just starting to think they can just show up and win, instead of having to show up and actually play the whole game.”
In the first match, the AA Orioles jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Ross St. Jean singled, and Reese Tambellini walked, setting up Brendan Makay who doubled in both runs. After Makay was called out on a fielders choice, Bradley Ross singled and stole second, and Austin Cox then stroked the first pitch into right field to score Ross.
But strong West Valley pitching and solid defence silenced the Oriole bats the rest of the way, and the Eagles replied with three of their own in the top of the second inning, while scoring the winning run in the top of the sixth on an RBI single from catcher Cam Andrews.
In the second half of the doubleheader, the Orioles led 3-0 after four innings, but a major lapse in the bottom of the fifth gave West Valley five unearned runs and a ticket to the district championship.
With Andrews on the mound in the second match, the Eagles sat down the first 11 Trail batters in order, but Colton Miracle went pitch for pitch for the Os keeping it zeroes until the fourth. With two out in the top of the fourth inning, the Orioles rallied. Brendan Makay hustled to first for an infield single to start it, and a walk to Bradley Ross put the runners on first and second. With Reese Tambellini at the plate, the Orioles executed a perfect double steal, only to see Tambellini walk and load the bases. Dallas Cox then stepped up and drilled a double into right-centre to clear the bases and give the Orioles a 3-0 lead.
The Os held the lead until the fifth when two walks and an infield single loaded the bases with two out. The Orioles were one pitch away from getting out of the inning unscathed, but three straight infield errors allowed the Eagles to score four, and a two-strike desperation slap single over first base stung even more as West Valley made it 5-3 heading into the sixth.
“Errors will kill you at any level of baseball,” said Mace. “If you don’t make the routine plays, you’re not going to win the ball game. We made four errors and it cost us each run.”
Mistakes came back to haunt the young Orioles team again in the sixth, as they gave up three more runs on one hit off reliever Ryan Stainer and three errors. Coleton Miracle took the loss on the mound going five innings, and giving up five runs on just two hits and three walks, while striking out six.
“I think Colton pitched well, and he deserved a better outcome for the way he pitched for sure, but at the end of the day you gotta do what you gotta do.”
The Eagles are on the verge of completing an epic season, with just one loss suffered to Rogers on June 22, and will play Coeur d’Alene U16 to wrap up their regular season on July 7, as they get set for the WSAL district championship.
“I think we’re good,” said Mackie, who has been with the West Valley High School program for 13 years. “We’ve already beaten a lot of the top American League division teams so I think we made a statement there, and I think these guys are starting to believe that when we play as a team, we can go a long way.”
As for the Trail AA Orioles, with two games remaining against winless Central Valley July 6, Trail is in good position to finish second and still make the WSAL District championship, from which the top teams will advance to the State finals.
“This isn’t the end of it,” said Mace. “But at the end of the day, you want to be in first, and we’re not going to be in first anymore.”