By RAY RODRIGUEZ
The Dalles Chronicle
When it came down to crunch time in a championship scenario, White Salmon had the players to come through in the clutch.
Alec Raether drove in the tying run in the seventh inning, reliever Garrett Hog-berg escaped a bases loaded jam in the eighth and Nate Roth delivered a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to give White Salmon an 8-7 triumph over Big Sky in Babe Ruth championship action last Thursday at Kramer Field, in The Dalles.
“I think this game really wraps up our performance this year,” Hogberg said. “We have had some big games where we have been down and come back. We have all come together and every one of us has put out a clutch performance to put us back into a game. It is just nice to know that if you don’t do your best, someone else is going to pick you up. That’s what happen-ed tonight.”
It’s White Salmon’s first The Dalles Babe Ruth championship since 2015, but sixth in the past seven seasons. The club placed third in 2015.
White Salmon trailed 2-0 and 5-2 at one point, but then rallied for two runs in the third to get to within a 5-4 deficit.
The score remained that way until the fifth when Big Sky put up two runs on a balk and an RBI ground out by Will James to make it a 7-4 margin.
Down three in the bottom of the sixth, William Shute and Garrett Clark started a White Salmon rally with back-to-back one-out singles to chase Big Sky’s first relief pitcher.
In came Jace Troutman to try and stop White Salmon’s surge, and he recorded the second out of the inning on a ground out.
With runners on second and third, Payden Webster drove in Shute with an RBI infield single, and Clark scampered home after a fielding error, inching White Salmon to within, 7-6.
Troutman got the final out to keep Big Sky in front by a run.
Hogberg had to contend with the top of Big Sky’s lineup in the top of the seventh, and had Wade Fields reach on an error and Tyler Carter double to right to put runners in scoring position with no outs.
Braden Carnine blooped a fly ball to shallow center-field, but Clark, White Salmon’s center fielder, made a diving catch and got the ball in before Fields could tag up for the insurance run.
Hogberg then struck out Hunter Padberg and Patrick Ramos to end the inning.
Still down one run in the home half of the seventh, Kolby Riggleman reached on an error, and one out later, Hogberg walked.
With runners at second and third, following a wild pitch, Raether drove in Riggleman with an RBI single to short right field to tie the score at 7 apiece.
White Salmon had runners at second and third with one out, but Troutman got the second out on a strikeout.
After an intentional walk to Clark, Jack Kelly grounded out to end the frame and send the game into extra innings.
With two outs in the top of the eighth and Big Sky’s Jed Knight at first base, Hogberg walked Blake Carter and Troutman to load the bases for Fields, the No. 2 hitter.
The two battled in a six-pitch at-bat, and with the count full, Hogberg fired a fastball past Fields for a strikeout to keep the contest knotted at 7-all.
That strikeout paved the way for White Salmon, which had the top of the order coming up.
Webster walked and then stole second base to set the stage for Roth, who smacked a hard grounder past the Big Sky shortstop into left field, scoring Webster to give White Salmon the walk-off victory.
“I was really nervous in the beginning because this was a team that we had beaten before, not by a lot, but we have consistently beaten them,” said Roth, who finished with a .491 batting average. “They came out and played their ‘A’ game and I was definitely nervous. But, I am really excited that we got this. I think the whole team played well. I am really pleased with my performance and it feels good to get the big hit to help this team win.”
In all, White Salmon posted nine hits, received eight walks and swiped 15 bases. Ansel Ruiz had two hits, and Webster added a 2 for 4 split with a walk, two runs and an RBI.
Roth went 1 for 3 with two walks, two runs, five stolen bases and an RBI, and Clark had a hit, a walk and a run.
Shute notched a hit and scored a run, Raether went 1 for 1 with an RBI, and Riggleman tacked on a run and an RBI.
Big Sky’s Tyler Carter gave up one run on two hits to get the relief loss.
Hogberg, who finished with a team-leading 37 strikeouts on the mound, tossed five innings of one-hit relief and allowed two runs with seven strikeouts and five walks to pick up the winning decision for White Salmon.
Tyler Carter had two of Big Sky’s three hits on the day, and he scored a run and drove in two more.
Also for Big Sky, Padberg was 0 for 1 with three walks and two runs, Ramos had a run and an RBI, and Troutman finished 1 for 4 with a walk and a run, as the team was issued nine walks and stranded 11 runners on base, eight in scoring position.
For a group of 18 players, representing Fossil, Arlington, Condon, Ione, Heppner, and Moro, head coach Jon McMurray liked how the team competed hard in every game.
Big Sky defeated Pepsi by a 9-6 margin for an upset win Tuesday in semifinal action to move into the championship.
It was a sharp contrast from a league record of 0-14 in 2016 to 9-5 this spring.
“These kids came out and put their heart and soul into everything,” McMurray said. “Today, they all showed up ready to battle. This game showed that if a couple of things go our way, maybe we are standing here ahead 8-7 after seven innings instead of down 8-7 after eight. I am so proud of the kids. They played fantastically. We are going to lose four or five older kids, but we will pick up a couple next year and hopefully we will be back here again.”
White Salmon posted an 11-1 overall record, and needed a 13-0 blowout romp over Hood River on Wednesday to secure a Babe Ruth finals berth.
In his playing days, White Salmon manager Aaron Hogberg won a Little League title and was part of a high school squad that made it to the Washington state Final Four on two occasions.
He was glad to see this group, who he has coached since they were five, secure a successful legacy that should carry them for years to come.
“I got to experience winning at different levels, so I am glad the kids got to experience this at a smaller level here in Babe Ruth,” said coach Hogberg. “Most of these kids will be in high school as freshmen next year, so this sets the table and gives them a taste of what being a champion is, moving forward, when they get on the bigger stage.”