The West Kootenay ‘A’ Orioles booked their spot into the Spokane American Legion District tournament playoffs with decisive weekend wins.
Despite two games remaining in the regular season, the ‘A’ Orioles clinched first place in the American Division with a pair of victories over second-place Newport on Friday and a twin-bill sweep of the Prairie Cardinals on Saturday.
“We played great on the weekend,” said West Kootenay coach Jim Maniago. “Again, what sets us apart is our pitching depth and defence.”
The Orioles pulled out their biggest win of the season in Game 1 of the doubleheader against Newport. With the game deadlocked at 2-2, Nathan Dann belted a triple in the top of the fifth inning to give West Kootenay a 3-2 lead. The O’s added one more in the top of seven for insurance.
Nathan O’Brien drove in two runs in the top of the first inning to set the stage for West Kootenay. Newport rallied back scoring one in the bottom of the first and one in the fourth to tie it at two.
But starter Marshall Debruyn shut the door after that, allowing two runs on seven hits, while striking out six for the complete game victory.
In the second match, Newport struggled in the field and on the mound as West Kootenay broke open a close 5-4 game in the fourth inning on their way to a 14-4 victory.
The Orioles scored seven runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and two more in the fifth for the mercy-rule ending.
Kelton Forte led the Orioles attack with five RBIs on two hits, a walk, and two stolen bases. Breyden Dewitt was solid on the mound, giving up four runs on five hits and striking out five and giving up three walks through all five innings. Dewitt also helped his own cause, going 2-for-3 at the plate with three RBIs.
“The first Newport game was really good,” said Maniago. “The second one they fell apart defensively and beat themselves.”
Going into the weekend, the Orioles led Newport by just half-a-game and the third-place Cardinals by 1.5 games in the American Division and were still in must-win mode come Saturday against the Cardinals.
“Prairie was hard to gauge as they apparently were missing four key kids,” said Maniago. “They struggled throwing strikes and making errors too. Our kids haven’t done that and that’s why we’re where we are.”
West Kootenay blew out the Cardinals 27-0 in Game 1 and 13-3 in the second match to extend their record to 13-1.
Jake Maniago gave up just one hit and went 3-for-6 at the plate. Forte and Connor Stainer also had three hits for the Orioles.
In Game 2, Stainer threw four innings giving up three runs on three hits and six strikeouts. Darren Issel was 2-for-3 at the plate with a triple and three runs scored in the 13-3 victory.
West Kootenay plays its final two games at home on Saturday with a doubleheader against the Central Valley Indians at Butler Park on Saturday at 1 and 3 p.m.
The Orioles will also play a double-bill against Newport Sunday at noon as a warm up for the District playoffs.
The Districts have a total of 11 teams competing, eight from the American and three from the National Divisions and goes July 18-21 in Spokane. West Kootenay enter the District tournament as the number-1 ranked team in the American Division and coach Maniago is confident going in.
“I like our chances heading into playoffs as we can run six or seven pitchers out there so we won’t run short over a tournament like other teams will. We’ve had tough games with most teams but where their depth drops off after their top pitcher, ours doesn’t.”
Four teams from the District playoffs advance to the Spokane American Legion baseball state championship in Tri-Cities the following weekend.