As the last pitch of the 8-10 Oregon District 8 Championship game hit the dirt and barreled towards the backstop, Del Norte’s Landon Williams took off down the third baseline. Although the Grants Pass Nationals quickly responded to the passed ball, Williams managed to slide safely into home plate just moments before the throw from the catcher, bringing the tournament to a close even before the dust settled.
The run capped a furious five-run rally over two innings that turned a late 9-5 deficit into a 10-9 win for Del Norte Little League’s third straight District 8 Championship in the 8–10 division.
“They play through adversity,” said Del Norte 8–10 head coach Maldo Salcedo. “Even though we were down in two of the games, we were able to hold our composure and fight back in both of our last two games. That shows great character for our kids. I’m very proud of each and every one of them.”
Del Norte got off to a strong start in the championship round. Del Norte starting pitcher Adrian Garcia retired the Grants Pass hitters in order in the top of the first inning, and worked out of a jam in the second inning to keep the Nationals scoreless. Meanwhile Del Norte put a run on the scoreboard in the first inning and added two more runs in the bottom of the second inning for a 3-0 lead.
After the second inning, Del Norte protested a move by Grants Pass in which the Nationals moved their starting pitcher to catcher after throwing 42 pitches. According to Little League rules a pitcher can only go to catcher if they have thrown less than 41 pitches.
The protest was eventually upheld, but it took Little League officials roughly 30 minutes to make an official ruling.
When play resumed in the top of the third inning, it was Grants Pass that came out hot, scoring three runs apiece in each of the next three innings.
“It just kind of stalled them and I think the kids went a little cold,” Salcedo said of the stoppage. “I didn’t really tell them what was going on, so it kind of left them in limbo. I think it probably had a little effect on them.”
The Nationals scored three runs in the third inning to tie the game back up at 3-3. Del Norte managed to get two of those runs back in the bottom of the third inning, but the Grants Pass offense kept rolling, as the Nationals grabbed their first lead of the game at 6-5 after scoring three more runs in the top of the fourth.
The Nationals grabbed a few insurance runs in the top of the fifth inning, building the biggest lead of the game at 9-5.
With just two at bats left and trailing by four runs, Del Norte finally got back on track.
“It was just an overall group effort,” Salcedo said. “They kind of had their heads down (after the top of the fifth inning) and I told them, ‘Hey, we are still in this thing. We can hit.’ The most important thing was we were the home team so we were able to get the last at bat.”
Garcia got Del Norte going in the bottom of the fifth inning with a one-out single. That was followed by two walks and a strikeout, bringing Rumaldo Salcedo Jr. to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs.
Salcedo calmly stroked a pitch high into the outfield, landing just over the leftfielder’s head, allowing Garcia and Ely Peterson to race home and cut Grants Pass’s lead in half to 9-7.
“That got us within striking distance, so that was huge for us,” Salcedo said.
In the top of the sixth inning the Del Norte defense managed to stymie Grants Pass, stranding a baserunner to remain within two runs.
“I told them that we are still in it, but we have to hit,” Salcedo said. “They were excited that we scored two runs the last inning and we stopped them after they got a runner on base. That fired them up. They were excited and came out and finished the game for us.”
Del Norte didn’t wait long to get going in the last at bat of the game. Marco Gonzalez led off the inning with a stand up triple after sending the first pitch he saw all the way to the outfield fence. Deken Hanks followed that up with another first-pitch triple into the outfield to cut Grants Pass’ lead to 9-8.
Williams kept the rally going by drawing a walk to put runners at the corners before Garcia tied the game with a base hit in the next at bat. That set up the opportunity for Williams to take home plate on a passed ball to seal the victory.
“Hitting is contagious,” Salcedo said. “Once one person does it, then another, everyone starts to hit it. It was a good thing that they did.”
With the win, Del Norte Little League captured its third straight 8–10 Oregon District 8 Championship and will advance to the Oregon State Tournament in Salem, Oregon starting July 12.
“We are going to give them a couple days off and let the kids be kids,” Salcedo said. “Then we are going back to work starting Monday. We will go back over some of the basics that we didn’t necessarily spend a lot of time on before districts. We will be focusing on mechanics and fundamentals.”
Reach Michael Zogg at email@example.com .