It wasn’t always pretty, but the Del Norte 10–12 All Star Baseball team is now just one win away from an Oregon District 8 championship after the Warriors topped Brookings 15-5 in four innings Tuesday at Pyke Field in a battle of the last two undefeated teams in the double elimination tournament.

The Brookings All Stars jumped out in front in the top of the first inning, taking advantage of a few mistakes by the Del Norte defense to push a run across the board despite three strikeouts while facing just four hitters by starting pitcher Cole Blackburn.

It was the first run scored against Del Norte in the District 8 Tournament and also the first time that the Warriors trailed.

That didn’t last long, however, as Del Norte’s offense took control of the game in the bottom of the inning with each of their first five hitters reaching base safely and all five were able to come around to score for an early 5-1 lead.

“In the first inning we batted all nine, in the second inning we batted all nine, and in the third inning we got through seven hitters,” said Del Norte 10-12 head coach Cris Rice. “We put up runs and didn’t play very good defense, but when you hit and pitch that is all you need, I guess, at this level.”

Brookings continued to take advantage of some mistakes by Del Norte early in the game, scoring an unearned run off of an error in the second inning. Two of Brookings’ three runs in the third inning were also unearned.

“We struggled defensively to be honest,” Rice said. “We made a lot of errors and a lot of mistakes on plays that we don’t typically do. Brookings put a few balls in play, and I guess we just aren’t used to that with our pitchers being so good. It is something that we are going to have to clean up if we are going to win on Thursday.”

Despite some shaky defense, Del Norte held a comfortable advantage throughout the rest of the game thanks to a red-hot offense. The Warriors put up four runs in the second inning to take a 9-2 lead and added three more runs in the third inning to maintain its lead at 12-5.

After its first scoreless inning of the tournament in the fourth inning, Del Norte bounced back for three more runs in the fifth inning to push its lead to 15-5 and triggered the 10-run rule.

“We have strength and some big kids,” Rice said. “Our older kids hit really well and our younger kids have a good eye for the ball. We also draw walks, and we are smart at the plate. Obviously it shows that we spend most of our time hitting in practice. I think (Wednesday) we are going to have to spend a little bit more time on defense and sharpen that up.”

Although Brookings was able to push a few runs across the plate, Rice said he thought his pitchers threw well once again, allowing only one earned run through the first two game.

“Our pitching was pretty good. Cole pitched great and we saved him for Thursday,” Rice said. “Then I brought Raymond (Rusgrove) in and even though they scored three runs on him there were mistakes made behind him when the ball was hit in play. Then I was really impressed with (Preston) Daniels. After getting hit by a line drive during the season his confidence had been rattled, but he got out there and he brought the swagger that he usually has on the mound. He blew it by those kids, and he is only in fifth grade, so that is pretty impressive.”

With the win, Del Norte is the last undefeated team remaining in the Oregon District 8 10–12 Baseball Tournament which gives it a significant advantage heading into the championship round of the double elimination tournament.

“The huge advantage is that we have every pitcher eligible and we have Thursday and Friday that we can play,” Rice said. “We can win it on Thursday, but if we lose Thursday we will play again on Friday. The idea is to keep (Brody) Mattz at 20 pitches just in case we don’t win the first game, so that we can pitch him in the second game.”

Del Norte will face a new opponent in the championship in Grants Pass American. American lost to Brookings 2-1 in their quarterfinal matchup on Sunday but bounced back to beat the Grants Pass Nationals by 10 runs on Tuesday. Grants Pass American then picked up a 9-1 win Wednesday in a rematch against Brookings to reach the championship round.

“We have been really impressed with them,” Rice said of Grants Pass American. “They 10-runned the Grants Pass National team that we played, then they lost to Brookings 2-1. That was a great game defensively, but we were a little bit surprised that they didn’t hit the pitching better.”

The championship game is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. today at Pyke Field. If Grants Pass wins, a winner-take-all championship game will be played on Friday, also at 5 p.m., at Pykes Field.

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