NORTH BEND — The South Coast Nationals will represent Southern Oregon in the 13-year-old division of the Babe Ruth Regional Tournament, after defeating the South Coast Americans on Saturday.
Saturday's game was completely different from Friday's first round, close to the end with the Nationals winning 17-13 after a blowout in the tournament opener a day earlier.
The Americans team came out with a strong defense, keeping close to the Nationals with both teams pushing runners through. However, the Nationals consistently maintained a lead through most of the game.
Things turned around in the seventh inning, though. In the bottom of the seventh, a base hit by the Americans' Evan Warner loaded the bases with only one out and the Nationals leading 11-7. The next three batters scored, through base hits and walks, pulling the Americans within 11-10. The Nationals swapped out pitchers and quickly secured the two outs to end the inning, but not before a final runner made it home to tie the game.
The final inning saw both teams giving everything they had. The Nationals blew onto the field, quickly scoring six more runs; the Americans fought hard in defense, ending the at-bat, then tried to bridge the gap and regain the lead. The Americans pushed across three more runs to make the score closer.
Sam Michaelson, of the Nationals, said it was a good game and fun playing against friends. He feels the Nationals underestimated their opponent, though, and made mistakes they shouldn't have. They were able to come back, though, and hold on for the win.
Nationals' Coach Russ Johnston said both teams played extremely well; he said the pitchers were throwing strikes and the batters did a good job hitting all game.
Americans Coach Michael Campbell noted how rare it is for a Babe Ruth game to be so close, especially considering how much they lost by the day before. He said his team was on fire and gave particular kudos to Warner for throwing nearly 100 pitches in the six-and-a-half innings he was on the mound.
"(That is) unheard of in a 13-year-old level," said Campbell. "That's a lot of pitches and he was still throwing strong; he probably could have finished the game."
The American coach recalled Warner may not be the fastest pitcher on the team, but noted he threw reliable strikes and worked well with the defense.
Johnston said he's proud of his team. He noted they handled pressure well and the pitchers were able to get them out of tight situations. He said they will do lots of damage once they get past making a few small mistakes.
"I'm really glad this happened, because we worked through a lot of our pitchers and we can kinda see what we might be dealing with in Montana," Johnston said. "How we handle our subs and our pitchers."
Johnston said he was happy the American team played such a hard game. He said it helped the Nationals in preparing for the regional tournament.
The Nationals head to Miles City, Montana this week for the regional tournament. Johnston is confident his team will compete well against the other teams. He said they plan to spend a couple of days practicing this week, but he will largely let the players focus on fundraising for the trip.
"We're representing Oregon, so we want to make sure everybody can get there," he said.
Campbell said he was proud of the Nationals and wished them luck at the Regional tournament. He said they have a strong team and is confident they will represent the South Coast well.