The Federal Division leading West Kootenay Diamondbacks played a vital two-game set against second place Colville in Washington State American Legion baseball action Tuesday night at Butler Park.
The 9-1 Dbacks were clinging to a one-game lead over the 12-2 Colville team going into the doubleheader Tuesday, but stretched it to three games after hammering the visitors 10-4 and 13-0.
“These two games were huge,” said Diamondback coach Roger Handley. “If we run the table now, we’re definitely in first place, we don’t have to worry about them catching us.”
The breathing room just might be what the Dbacks needed as they get set to finish off the regular season this weekend with a brutal eight-games-in-five days marathon.
The team has definitely been buttressed by a half dozen Jays players, but even the younger players have contributing mightily, says Handley. And the key to the successful season thus far has been consistency and a positive attitude in the dugout.
“I try not to let them get down, if a kid strikes out there’s someone else to pick them up,” says Handley. “If you’re not hitting the ball this game, you hit it the next game. I want to keep it positive and not worry when they do strike out.”
In the 13-0 match Scott Davidson was one strike away from a no hitter, when the Coville batter chopped a sharp grounder to short. It looked to be a sure out, but at the last moment the ball took a wild hop over the shoulder of the shortstop and into left field. While it was counted an error on the scoreboard, the official scorekeeper called it a hit, spoiling Davidson’s bid for the no-hitter.
Still Davidson’s effort was superb, ceding just one hit, and no runs, on no walks, and seven strikeouts, while allowing just two base runners all game.
“He was great, loved the job he did.”
Handley actually rested both Davidson and Johnson at Spokane’s Wood Bat tournament on the weekend where they went 3-2, so they could be fresh for the two-game tilt against Colville.
With two out in the top of the first inning Sean Barta knocked in the winning run with a single up the middle as the Dbacks jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning.
Barta then plated another two in the second with a double off the wall and the Dbacks extended the lead to 7-0. WKD would score four more in the fourth, courtesy of Joe Ferraro, who stepped up and cleared the bases scoring three with a drive to right centre to make it 11-0, and safely in mercy-rule territory.
The Backs added two more in the fifth, before shutting Colville down and out. Barta went 3-for-3 at the dish with two doubles and a walk, while Josh Blank was 2-for-2 with two walks
In the opening match Tanner Johnson allowed four runs on five hits and one walk while striking out nine for the 10-4 victory, as the Diamondbacks ended the game in rare and dramatic fashion
Colville threatened in the top of seven. With runners on first and second, and nobody out. Shortstop Allan Patterson smashed a liner towards right field but first baseman Barta made a great stab, then stepped on his base, and threw it to second base for the triple play.
Colville had jumped out into a 2-0 lead in the first, but the Dbacks plated five runs in the second and another five in the fifth to go up 10-2. Ryan Sahlstrom went 3-for-3 at the plate, while Ferraro had at 2-for-3 night.
If the Dbacks can hang on to first place, they will start the playoffs on Wednesday in Spokane against the second-place team from the National division.
This game may be their biggest test as the winner moves on, while the loser’s season is over.
“That’s an elimination game, so you have to advance from there,” added Handley. “If you get into the next game I think we play the first team of the American division but if we lose that game at least we’re still alive and go down to the loser’s bracket.”
The top four teams advance to the state championship.
The Dbacks play Rogers tonight at Butler Park at 5 and 7:30 p.m. followed by doubleheaders on Saturday at Butler, Sunday away, and Monday at Butler.