Every kid holding a neon yellow Wiffle ball bat in their backyard dreams of the moment: Two outs, bases loaded, final inning of the game. The slow walk from the on-deck circle to the batter’s box, the crowd on its feet, the anticipation at fever pitch.
When Ryan Orr walked to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning of Tumwater’s 2A state championship against Columbia River on Saturday evening, he had the chance to live that childhood dream. Bases loaded, two outs, the game so far a scoreless tie.
He ripped a hard hit ball to the second baseman and in a foot race to beat the pitcher to the bag, dove head first into the base. Safe. The runner from third scored, giving Tumwater the 1-0 win and the 2A state championship, the first in program history.
“It was awesome to do it for my teammates,” Orr said. “Just trying to stay calm, in myself. Just try to take deep breaths. I saw the pitcher was a little late getting off the mound. I thought I could beat him.”
He calculated correctly. Orr had a three-hit game for the T-Birds and somehow, those were all three of the team’s hits.
“We hit the ball very well, we wore out the shortstop,” said Tumwater coach Lyle Overbay, sarcastically, laughing. “He’s their best player. We’ve proven that he is the best.”
Fortunately for Tumwater, as good as Columbia River pitcher Casey Struckmeier was, T-Birds’ pitcher Jordan Hanson was even better. He threw 6 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and two walks, striking out seven and surrendering no runs. Before the game, Hanson was predictably nervous for his state championship game start.
“I had a lot of butterflies, my heart was beating fast,” he said. “When I got on the mound, I felt better.”
Strangely enough, he wasn’t having much luck locating his breaking ball for strikes, which meant Orr was forced to mostly throw his fastball. But even with Columbia River’s hitters sitting on the fastball, it didn’t matter.
“He’s just real smooth,” Overbay said. “It just jumps on you. That 87, 88 (miles per hour) feels like it’s 90, 92. It just comes out so smooth and effortless. … We had a lot of swings that were late and behind.”
Hanson said he recently modified his fastball grip, making a chance that has added more spin rate on the pitch.
“It’s helped a lot,” he said. For the baseball program, it’s the first state title in school history. “Since freshman year, we wanted to do this,” Hanson said. “We couldn’t have it sophomore year or junior year. This was the last chance. It was a great ride.”
Lyle Overbay played over a decade in Major League Baseball, suiting up for six different franchises. He wore the Yankees pinstripes. Yet to him, this is what it’s all about for baseball players: playing with their buddies, for their high school, making memories they’ll never forget.
“I tell these guys, ‘You’re going to remember it like it’s yesterday, 20 years from now,’” he said. “They’ll never be able to take it away from you. It was great for these guys. They have, and everyone has, been through a lot these last couple years. They’ve worked hard. … To see it pay off was pretty cool.”