The Del Norte 8-10 All Star Baseball team will be the last unbeaten team in their Oregon District 8 bracket when it takes the field for the championship round of the double elimination bracket against Grants Pass National today at 5 p.m. at Pyke Field.
Del Norte dominated its opening game on Saturday, pulling away from Brookings early en route to a 17-7 win in four innings by the 10-run rule.
“Our bats came alive and our pitchers did really well,” said Del Norte 8-10 head coach Maldo Salcedo. “I was proud of the pitchers and I was proud that everybody was able to hit the ball.”
On Sunday Del Norte was pushed to its limit, but came through in the clutch for a 5-4 win over Grants Pass National in a game between the last two unbeaten teams in the tournament.
“It’s huge for these kids,”Salcedo said. “I believe (Grants Pass) is the best team we are going to face (in districts) — by far — so being able to beat them in a close game will hopefully give them confidence coming out the next time we see them.”
Del Norte got off to a quick start in their first game of the tournament Saturday against Brookings. After Brookings managed to put a run on the scoreboard in the top of the first inning, the Warriors answered back emphatically.
Del Norte pushed a run across the plate to tie the score at 1-1 just before picking up their second out of the inning. That is when the Warriors bats found their groove.
Del Norte smacked five singles, a double and a triple, while also drawing four more walks to take a commanding 12-1 lead after the opening frame.
Salcedo said the big first inning really gave Del Norte a mental boost.
“It got them fired up to want to play,” Salcedo said. “It is the first All Star game for a lot of them, so they had the jitters. They were a little on edge, so getting all those runs really boosted their confidence and got them going.”
Del Norte bats quieted down a little after the first inning, but the Warriors were able to hold Brookings at arms length throughout the game.
“Our bats kind of died in the middle of the game, but our defense stepped up, which was good,” Salcedo said.
Brookings put together a rally in the fourth inning to close Del Norte’s lead to 14-7 and potentially force the game to continue, but Del Norte came up in the bottom of the inning and got three runs back, capped by Landon Williams stealing home on a passed ball to trigger the 10-run rule and secure the win.
Sunday’s semifinal game between Del Norte and Grants Pass — the last two unbeaten teams in the bracket — was much closer, with neither team able to build a lead larger than one run.
“It was a battle back and forth,” Salcedo said. “The kids held their composure. When they got down they still held their heads up and battled through. They showed a lot of character. I was proud of them.”
After a quick start on Saturday, Del Norte was a little sluggish coming out of the gates against Grants Pass. The National struck out Del Norte’s first three batters in the top of the first inning, and managed to take a 1-0 lead in the bottom half of the inning.
“I just told them that one run is nothing,” Salcedo said. “We hit a lot in the game before, so I knew if we were able to hit the ball we would get runs on the board. Unfortunately that didn’t happen in the first inning, but we kept the moral up and I told them that we can hit just as well as anybody else.”
Del Norte didn’t have to wait long for its offense to materialize.
In the top of the second inning Marco Gonzalez smacked a triple to lead off the inning and tied the game at 1-1 on a hard-hit one-hopper back to the pitcher by Deken Hanks.
Williams then put Del Norte ahead 2-1 with an inside the park home run that shot just inside the first baseline and rolled all the way to the fence.
The Nationals answered back with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning, to retake the lead at 3-2.
Del Norte used some alert baserunning in the fourth inning to push its way back on top. Kanyon Starkey lead off the inning with a walk and ended up coming all the way around to score by taking second, third and home on passed balls to tie the game at 3-3.
Salcedo said that heads-up base running is something the team has practices quite a bit, and it is a vital part of the Del Norte offense.
“You want to be aggressive with your baserunning because it can win and lose the game,” he said. “If we weren’t so aggressive we would have left some of those runs on the field, rather than putting them on the board.”
Williams came through again two batters later with a single that brought Deken Hanks in to score for a 4-3 lead.
After Grants Pass tied the game back up at 4-4 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Del Norte managed to answer back once again with its last at bat of the game.
Hanks got Del Norte going with a one-out single before taking second and third base on passed balls. Williams then came through for his third RBI of the game with a ground out to the second basemen, which allowed Hanks to race home for the eventual game winning run.
After walking the first batter in the bottom of the sixth inning, Del Norte pitcher Damien Escalera managed to get the last three outs of the game to secure the win.
After falling to Del Norte on Sunday, Grants Pass National bounced back for a 13-3 win over Medford in the other semifinal game on Monday to set up a rematch in the Division 8 8-10 Baseball championship round, set to kick off today at 5 p.m.
If Del Norte beats Grants Pass today, they will be the District 8 champions and advance to the Oregon State Tournament next month. If Del Norte loses today, both teams would return to Pyke Field on Wednesday for a winner-take all championship game starting at 5 p.m.
Reach Michael Zogg at email@example.com .