By the time the final two teams reached the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Wood Bat Classic senior American Legion championship game Saturday afternoon at Avista Stadium, they’d reached the bottom of their pitching staffs.
Seven games in four days will do that to a team.
So it wasn’t so much that the wood bats came alive in the final, but more that the teams took advantage of lesser-talented pitchers. Taking advantage of its opportunities the most was the Tri-County Outlaws, an AAU team consisting of players from Hermiston, Ore., and the Tri-Cities.
Tri-County held off the Kennewick Bandits in nine innings for an entertaining 13-11 decision under sun-drenched skies.
The win was much more impressive considering Tri-County (16-6) was missing its top two pitchers, who had to stay home and work. Austin Thornhill, the third pitcher used in the title game, went the final three innings allowing two runs and four hits. He worked out of a ninth-inning jam after the first three batters reached on a walk and two singles.
Thornhill picked up a save in Tri-County’s 2-1 win over defending Washington AAA Legion state champ Bellingham.
Tri-County led 11-9 going into the bottom of the seventh, but Kennewick (26-11) rallied to force extra innings.
After a scoreless eighth, Tri-County scored two in the ninth. Tate Gabriel led off with a single and Thornhill followed with a slicing shot that barely touched the right-field line as he stretched it into a double.
Gabriel scored on a wild pitch and Andrew Fullerton brought Thornton in on a fielder’s choice.
The Bandits made things interesting in the bottom of the inning, putting runners on first and third before Thornhill closed the door.
Outlaws catcher Larry Price led at the plate with four hits.
“It was fun. We came out and came together,” Price said. “We were both running low on pitchers, but the better team won today.”
The win impressed Outlaws coach Derrek Lete.
“A lot of our kids kept grinding,” Lete said. “There were one or two games in the tournament where we had to dig deep. We let it all out in the championship game. The kids never gave up. There were a couple of games where we were down multiple runs.”
Tri-County trailed 8-4 through three innings Saturday.
“They kept chipping away,” Lete said. “It was just our day.”
Kennewick knocked off the defending tourney champs, the Chino (Calif.) Red, 1-0 in eight innings when the deciding score came on an overthrow at first base.