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Wood bat pays off at Classic

Herzer’s bloop RBI single gives Blue Devils title

If he’d hit the baseball with an aluminum bat, Brenden Herzer may have been out.

Instead, Herzer’s two-out bloop to right field drove in the go-ahead run and lifted the Spokane Blue Devils to a 3-2 victory over the Billings Scarlets in the Senior Division championship game of the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene Wood Bat Classic.

Spokane’s Ben Krupla walked with two out in the sixth and stole second base. Herzer then flared a ball into right field, and it squirted free from diving Scarlets outfielder Brady Muller to allow Krupla to jog home for a one-run lead. The same ball hit with an aluminum bat – and the extra pop that comes with it – could have resulted in a routine fly out.

“I had two strikes and was trying to put the ball in play,” said Herzer, who finished 3 for 3 and also drove in a run in the second inning. “I was just trying to hit something.”

Spokane coach Tony Byrne said the tournament title was his team’s first in the past four years. That it came in front of hometown supporters was a bonus.

“I think it’s awesome to do it with every parent here, and they wouldn’t see us if we were in Yakima (or elsewhere),” Byrne said. “And the legion people who work so hard for us got to see us.”

Spokane starter Drue Heinen struck out five in 3 1/3 innings and allowed one earned run. His performance was important because it freed Byrne from having to dip into his bullpen, which had already been stretched by six previous games in four days.

Tyler Pfeffer, who threw 10 pitches in the Blue Devils’ 11-9 semifinal win over the Medicine Hat Moose Monarchs earlier in the day, relieved Heinen in the fourth and pitched 1 2/3 hitless innings to earn the win. Kasey Sargent struck out four over the final two innings to pick up the save.

Spokane staked a 2-0 lead in the second. Thomas Townsend’s single drove in Jake Sullivan with the first run, and Herzer singled up the middle two batters later to push Townsend across home plate.

Ty Gilmore’s RBI double in the third pulled Billings within 2-1, and the Scarlets knotted the score at 2-all in the fourth when Muller scored on an error. Billings finished with only three hits, but the Scarlets also collected five bases on balls.

Sargent, Pfeffer and Sullivan each had two hits for the Blue Devils, who had nine hits through four innings but only two runs. Billings shortstop Aleksei Grosulak started double plays in the third and fourth innings to squelch a pair of Spokane threats.

The tournament’s Senior Division featured 24 teams, along with another 32 teams competing for the Junior crown. Tournament director Mike Padden said the event’s success went a long way toward Spokane being named the host city for the American Legion World Series scheduled for Aug. 13-17, 2010.

“It will have a big, positive economic impact on Spokane,” Padden said of next year’s World Series. “The teams will be here for a while. We’ll have scouts, coaches and fans traveling from all over the country.”

Junior Division

Geoff Watson, Gene Watson, Jon Mercer and Mitch Vydo each delivered two singles as Pride Bothell beat Walla Walla 7-1 for the Junior Division championship. Brian McAfee earned the win for Pride.

Pride reached the championship game by beating Yakima 11-10 in eight innings after Yakima scored six runs in the seventh to force the extra inning. In the other semifinal, Walla Walla beat Mead 8-0.