Larch Mountain Little League’s 8-10-year-olds received the pitching performances it needed to stay in it but a slew of errors resulted in a 9-1 defeat to Pacific Little League in the second round of the state tournament Tuesday night at Dick Scott Field in Centralia.
Larch Mountain hung tough through three innings behind two solid innings on the mound from starter Owen Driver, who fanned three batters with zero walks while allowing one earned run on three hits.
But a four-run bottom of the fourth by Pacific, fueled by a two-out, bases-loaded, infield error that plated two runs pushed the momentum in the wrong direction for Larch Mountain.
“It’s errors at inopportune times,” Larch Mountain Manager A.J. Easley said. “You got two outs with the bases loaded and you boot one. It’s unfortunate but we’ll be OK.”
Pacific opened the scoring with a two-run single in the bottom of the first inning before Driver forced a groundout and registered a strikeout.
Center fielder Kaiser Tartios was left stranded on second after a base hit in the top of the second inning and catcher Marshall Turnquist was left on second base after drawing a walk in the third.
Brody Easley, who retired three of four batters he faced in the third inning, gave up two walks and a single to load the bases in the bottom of the fourth. Clayton Knutson entered in relief and an infield error allowed Pacific to plate two runs. An RBI single and a sac-fly brought two more runs in to make it 6-0.
Larch Mountain threatened in the top of the fifth RJ Calica and Driver each walked and Ryder Radasa reached on a fielder’s choice. But Driver and Radasa were left stranded on second and third and Larch Mountain’s offense sputtered.
After allowing a leadoff triple in the bottom of the fifth, Knutson registered back-to-back strikeouts before Pacific hit two RBI singles with an infield error in between them to go up 9-0.
Larch Mountain finally got on board in the bottom of the sixth after Tartios walked and then scored from second base when Bentley Alfonso reached on a Pacific error to make it 9-1. But that’s all the offense the combined Rochester-Tenino team would muster.
“We just didn’t come ready to hit the baseball today,” Easley said. “Their pitcher threw pretty well. That’s probably the best pitcher we’ve seen in a while.”
Larch Mountain scattered just two hits on the day. Tattoos finished with one hit and two walks, Driver tallied a walk and a hit and Calica and Turnquist each walked once.
Easley praised his pitchers, Driver, Easley, Knutson and Alfonso, for keeping the team in the game. Easley surrendered one earned run on two hits with a strikeout in 1.1 innings. Knutson fanned three batters and allowed five hits in 1.1 innings.
“I thought our pitchers pitched well enough to be in that ball game,” Easley said. “Owen, Brody and Clayton, I thought they all did really good. They were throwing ground balls, throwing fly balls, they were doing what they needed to do. They didn’t walk a ton of guys.”
Larch Mountain advanced to the state tournament after a dominant performance at the District 3 tourney, scoring 82 runs in four games to capture the district championship.
The team then beat Richland 8-5 in the state opener on Sunday to set up the showdown with Pacific Tuesday. Larch Mountain will now play Bonney Lake-Sumner at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, at Dick Scott Field in a loser-out match.