WINLOCK — The weirdness that COVID-19 imposed on the 2021 restart to preps sports turned everything out of whack in terms of the normal schedule. Within weeks of getting the green light to resume play, there were suddenly football games getting played in the snow, rain, and mud of February. Fast-forward to the end of the school year, and basketball games were being held on 75-degree days in May and June.
But Thursday, with high school sports — at least in Washington — wrapped up, the focus turned to summer ball, with Rural Baseball Inc. hosting the seventh annual Dave Orzel Haymaker Memorial Tournament. For a change, the calendar completely lined up like normal, and the weather did its part, chasing away the storms of last week with a cloudless sky and the heat of the dog days of summer.
“It’s perfect,” RBI pitching coach Nayt Taylor said. “It was a beautiful day.”
Then again, maybe Mother Nature knew she had to do her part for one of the biggest and most joyful weekends of baseball in Southwest Washington, playing in memory of a titan in the community.
“He was a special guy,” said Dustin Williams, head coach of LCBC’s A team, sponsored by LineX. “His memory should live on, and these kids should definitely respect that and learn about him. There’s nobody like Dave. It’s too bad that there can’t be more Dave Orzels in the world.”
On the field, the slimmed-down version of the tournament — with just six teams this year — got underway, first with Kelso Premier downing LCBC AA Rohl Roofing 8-6, before the Dirtbags run-ruled the X’s 14-4 in five innings.
“We played some of our younger guys, we definitely threw some of our younger guys, and I thought for the most part we played pretty well,” Taylor said.
It definitely looked like a pair of young squads in some of their first action of the year. RBI got its scoring started early with a two-spot in the bottom of a first inning that didn’t involve a base hit. The X’s did the bulk of their scoring in a three-run third where they sent nine batters to the plate, but all of the damage came on free passes.
All told, the two teams combined to issue 18 walks — there was just one half-inning without one — and hit five batters.
RBI went into the bottom of the fifth up 9-4, but drew four straight free passes to make it 10-4, scored twice more on an error, before Centralia’s Kyuss Mano finally logged the Dirtbags’ first hit of the frame — and just their sixth of the game — make it 13-4. Woodland’s Daymon Gressett stood on third base representing the run-rule run, and didn’t stay there long, darting home ahead of the throw on a wild pitch to end it early.
Gressett drove in three runs and scored three more for RBI, ripping the best shot of the day for a stand-up triple into left field in the bottom of the fourth.
Toledo’s Ryan Bloomstrom went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles, a walk, and two runs scored.
On the mound, Mossyrock’s own Jake Comer tossed two shutout innings before handing it off to a parade of relievers that included Bloomstrom, Jesse Towns, and R.J. Workman.
Despite reaching base on every inning, LCBC managed just two hits all game long. Kalama’s Kaden Stariha broke up the combined no-hitter in the top of the fourth with an infield single, and Mark Morris’ Austin Lindquist drove in a run with a single in the fifth.
“We’re a few baserunning mistakes away, and some better control on the mound away from making that a tight game,” Williams said. “They’re coming around.”
The day kicked off a weekend full of baseball — and more — in Winlock. With Egg Day taking place on Saturday, the RBI staff saw fit to switch out the traditional practice of chasing pigs or chickens for an egg toss before bracket play begins.
“It’s one of those things where other teams see it and are like, ‘Oh, that’s stupid,’” Taylor said. “Then they get here, you’ll watch the kids do it Saturday, and they’ll enjoy the heck out of it.”
It’ll be yet another hot, busy weekend in Winlock, helping re-align the sports calendar back on track, and celebrating Orzel in the most fitting way.
“I know for me and for my group, as far as coaches and people I’ve coached with in the area, it’s a huge deal,” Taylor said. “Dave impacted more lives than anybody could even imagine. This is probably the littlest thing we could do for him. It’s amazing.”