Coming off its first loss of the state tournament, a 9-1 defeat to Pacific on Tuesday, Larch Mountain Little League’s 8-10-year-olds were facing an elimination game against Bonney Lake-Sumner on Thursday night. They needed a boost.
Manager A.J. Easley showed his squad the bracket showing just six teams left: two up top who hadn’t lost yet and four one-loss teams on the bottom. They would need to win five games in the next four days to capture the state championship.
“I told them, ‘One of those four is gonna work their butts off and they’re going to win and get themselves back in the championship game,’” Easley said. “And we just took the approach of, ‘Why not us?’”
That’s right, why not them? The boys responded, blasting the team from Pierce County for a 10-0 victory at Dick Scott Field Thursday and inching closer to the state championship match.
Staff ace Clayton Knutson was near perfect on the mound, allowing just two hits in four innings as Bonney Lake-Sumner had no answer offensively.
“He did a really good job,” Easley said.
Larch Mountain entered the state tourney after exploding for 82 runs in four games to capture the district title. After an 8-5 win in the opening round of state against Richland, Larch Mountain’s bats fell silent in the loss to Pacific Tuesday. But on Thursday, their bats woke back up.
“Offensively, what we’ve been waiting for came around,” Easley said. “Obviously we scored a lot of runs in districts and we’re kind of sitting here going, ‘What in the world?’ We just weren’t hitting and weren’t having good at-bats, and last night we were able to have good at-bats.”
Brody Easley smashed a two-run double early on to put Larch Mountain up early and Alfonso Bentley was also praised for his performance at the plate.
Two days after managing just two hits against Pacific, the Rochester boys made some adjustments at the plate and used timely hitting to put pressure on Bonney Lake-Sumner. Larch Mountain struck out just twice on the night.
“It wasn’t like we had great hits all the time but we put balls in play,” Easley said. “Even our four guys who came off the bench, Nolan (Driver), Adam (Easley), RJ Calica and Darin Ware, those guys had really good at-bats. They weren’t just outs in the lineup. They put down some really good bunts or drew a walk or put balls in play. It made the difference.”
The highlight of the game was catcher Marshall Turnquist’s unassisted double play, where he made a diving catch on a pop-up bunt and then sprinted to first base to double-up a runner who had gone to second base.
It’s been an impressive tournament run so far for Larch Mountain. The last time the team made it this far in state was five years ago when they placed fourth. The team, which is made up entirely of Rochester kids, pulls the best players from just three Majors teams. In comparison, Bonney Lake-Sumner had nine Majors teams make an all-star team out of.
“For us to be able to battle with those guys is pretty awesome,” Easley said.
Larch Mountain continues its run in another loser-out match against Kirkland at 5 p.m., Friday, at Dick Scott Field in Centralia.