Despite being the only regular-season team out of a field of 13, the Lewis River Juniors placed fourth at the state tournament played recently in Spokane.
Lewis River’s team, made up of 13- and 14-year-old players from Woodland, was competing against all-star teams from the other 12 districts around the state. In July, Lewis River won the district title with a doubleheader victory over Hazel Dell on July 6.
Lewis River opened the state tournament with a 17-4 loss to Bellevue, but quickly turned things around with a 20-6 offensive onslaught against Spokane’s West Plains. Lewis River’s bats again prevailed in a 20-3 win over Key Peninsula from Gig Harbor before winning their third straight game, a hard-fought 11-10 win in a rematch with Bellevue.
In the state semifinals, Lewis River had its season come to an end with an 11-5 loss to Richmond from North Seattle. Lewis River finished the season with an overall record of 30-5.
At the district tournament, played at the Luke Jensen Sports Complex in Vancouver, Lewis River defeated Ridgefield 14-3 and then downed Battle Ground 22-12. Lewis River also beat Hazel Dell twice, 19-8 and 8-1. According to coach Brian Borzone, it was Lews River’s first Juniors baseball title in over a decade.
“We’re a small league, but we usually have one of the top regular season teams each year,’’ Borzone said. “Our post season competition gets very stiff, however, since most of the competing leagues combine two or more teams to make up their all-star teams. As a small league, our regular season team is also our all-star team.”
In the win over Ridgefield at the district tournament, Jimmy Borzone pitched a complete game and added two hits and three runs, Tristan Thomas was 4-for-4 at the plate with four runs scored and Dustin Pitner added a triple and two runs as the team from Woodland.
Lewis River lost its second game at district, 3-2 to Hazel Dell. Coach Borzone said Hazel Dell employed what is known as the “College World Series defense,’’ suited for the large dimensions of Luke Jensen Park.
“Hazel Dell positioned their infielders 15 feet behind each bag and had their outfielders all about 310-320 feet from home plate,’’ Borzone said. “Luke Jenson is a big park, and the 90 degree weather super-heated the artificial turf. The result was the turf killed the speed of ground balls, and fly balls hit a heat layer that kept them in the air longer than normal, allowing outfielders to race under them. They played us perfectly.’’
For the 4th year in a row, Battle Ground stood in the way of Lewis River making it to the final round of the tourney round, and for the 4th consecutive year, Lewis River sent the scrappy Battle Ground team home with a loss.
“We had confidence that our offense would break out and carry the day,” said Lewis River coach Mike Medenhall.
Lewis River exploded in the third inning for 11 runs, highlighted by a Pitner double and a triple by Spencer Thomas, both with the bases loaded. The inning effectively put the game out of reach as the score climbed to 22-5, before a late Battle Ground rally resulted in the 22-12 final. Koby Hunt picked up the pitching win for Lewis River, Mulder was 3-for-4 with a triple and five RBI; Spencer Thomas was 2-for-2 with two walks, a triple, and three RBI; Tristan Thomas had a hit and four walks, two RBI and four runs scored, while Borzone also scored four runs and was 2-for-3 with a triple.
The championship again pitted Hazel Dell and Lewis River, with Hazel Dell needing to be beaten twice in order to be denied its fifth consecutive district title. Hazel Dell jumped on top 5-0 in the game.
“We’re a great small ball team when we have to be, and that’s the change we made in the third inning,” said Lewis River coach Tom Buck.
In the fourth inning, Tristan Thomas started a rally with a drag bunt and Mulder and Pitner followed with RBI doubles. Spencer Thomas executed a hit and run, scoring Pitner, and Nolan Autrey followed with a suicide squeeze to plate Alex Ikerd, who had walked. Consecutive RBI singles by Trent Logan, Dallin Buck, and Borzone closed out the scoring in the inning, putting Lewis River on top 8-5.
The Woodland crew opened up the fifth inning with consecutive singles by Hunt, Spencer Thomas, and another bunt single by Autrey. Dallin Buck’s two-out single scored two and Lewis River ended the inning up 12-5. On defense, Borzone and Rio Syvertsen controlled the Hazel Dell bats, allowing only two hits after the first inning and Autrey, the catcher, threw out three of the four Hazel Dell stolen base attempts.
In the championship game, Syvertsen and Mulder combined to pitch a 1-hitter against Hazel Dell. Lewis River took a 4-1 lead by the fourth inning, with the big hit by Pitner (triple) and a suicide squeeze by Hunt. Woodland added four insurance runs in the top of the seventh inning with consecutive RBI singles by Borzone and Tristan Thomas, a double by Mulder and another triple from Pitner. Autrey threw out both of Hazel Dell’s stolen base attempts in the game, and finished the day (two games) 6-for-7 at the plate with four RBI.
“What a great accomplishment for this group of kids,’’ Borzone said. “They have improved every year for the last four years, showing hard work, dedication, team work, and sticking together pays off. They never gave up, they executed everything they practiced and I couldn’t be prouder of them at this moment. They deserved to win and enjoy the celebration for their efforts.”