The Roseburg, Ore., Legion baseball team has come down with a virus.
What isn’t clear is whether unheralded pitcher Dakota Cavens was infected by his teammates or infected them.
The Doc Roberts rallied to defeat Missoula 9-7 Sunday afternoon, allowing the Oregon state champs to head into the championship of the Northwest Regional tournament with room for error.
Roseburg (32-13) plays Kelso (37-21) – which eliminated Wausau, Wis., 13-10 earlier Sunday at Gonzaga University’s Washington Trust Field – today at 1 p.m. with a chance to advance to the American Legion World Series beginning Friday in Spokane.
If Kelso avenges Saturday night’s 8-4 loss to Roseburg, the champion of the Northwest Regional Tournament will be determined in a 6 p.m. game.
Roseburg 9, Missoula 7: Cavens is the biggest reason Roseburg had advanced this far.
“He just came out with a lot more confidence,” right fielder Mitch Huff said. “It’s a virus on our team, our confidence. A couple of guys get confident and the whole team gets up.”
In his previous start July 20, Cavens got only one out in a 22-8 shellacking by Klamath Falls. He trailed Missoula 7-4 after five innings and 82 pitches.
“For a while I was a little worried, getting the pitch count up,” Cavens said. “I had confidence in the team. I knew I’d get run support. Our team has done an outstanding job scoring runs all season. I knew if I held them under 10 runs we’d have a chance.”
He then retired 13 straight Mavericks until a two-out walk in the ninth and finished with 117 pitches.
“Something started working better, I guess,” Cavens said.
The Docs never led until Josh Graham hit a three-run home run to left in the top of the eighth inning, giving him three homers and 11 RBIs in the tournament.
“We’ve matured so much in the past few weeks,” Huff said. “When we get down, we don’t put ourselves out of the game.”
The Mavericks (66-11) scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the second but gave them back with a dismal third. After two walks and two outs, a dropped ball in center field and a grounder through the shortstop’s legs led to a tie game. That ended an 11-inning scoreless string against Missoula and boosted its unearned runs in four games of the tournament to 13.
The Mavs regained the lead with three runs in the bottom of the third. Again Roseburg came back, getting a pair in the fourth on two-out singles by Huff and Graham, making it 5-4.
Starting pitcher Steven Young and Riley King drove in runs in the fifth to make it 7-4, but that was the last gasp for the Mavericks.
“We played below our level,” Missoula manager Brent Hathaway said. “We made too many mistakes, messed up too many opportunities. At this level it costs you and it should. It cost us being able to play tomorrow.”
Kelso 13, Wausau 10: It took Pacific Tech a couple of innings to rebound from the loss to Roseburg, but Carl Johnson’s grand slam in a seven-run fourth inning got them going.
“Another heart attack,” Kelso coach Grady Tweit said. “Persevere, these kids persevere. You can respect that.”
Roseburg scored five runs in the last three innings on Saturday, and on Sunday Wausau (32-19) took a big lead early with a three-run first and four-run fourth.
“I thought (we) would roll over” Tweit said. “I just said, ‘No regrets, play your butts off regardless.’”
Kelso second baseman Garrett McCoy had three hits, giving him 12 for the tournament, the same as Wausau first baseman Mike Parman. McCoy drove in four runs, Johnson five.
The other key moment came in the top of the seventh, when Wausau scored to cut the lead to 9-8 and had the bases loaded with Parman up. Parman grounded sharply to third, where Johnson started a double play.