EPHRATA — Sometimes you eat the dog, sometimes the dog eats you. Or in the case of the Northern Washington Babe Ruth League state championship game, the Columbia Basin River Dogs just sort of chewed on each other for a while in a game where the lead changed hands five times in six innings Saturday afternoon at Johnson-O’Brien Stadium.
Cody Alvarado drove a fly ball deep enough to right field to score Tristen Garland in the bottom of the sixth and the River Dogs No. 1 held off the River Dogs No. 2 to win the Northern Washington state championship 6-5.
Longtime River Dog manager and Northern Washington Babe Ruth commissioner Randy Boruff said going in he thought it was going to take a pretty good effort to beat his select team at the Northwest Regional Tournament next week in Gillette, Wyo. He was right and the guys that weren’t named to the 18-man River Dog No. 1 roster were a timely hit away from doing just that.
The No. 2 club scored first and led twice through the first 2 1/2 innings. The No. 1 club answered with three in the bottom half of the third, including a two-out triple by Dax Lindgren.
The competitive juices were flowing and it really was a Columbia Basin showcase. Washington Baseball Coaches Hall of Famer Dave Johnson, who will manage the No. 2 club for the duration, said he hasn’t see so much depth at the senior level in quite a while.
“When we decided to select a Team A and Team B instead cutting 16 guys, it was because coach (Randy) Boruff knew we had a bunch of young kids with talent,” said Johnson, who took over the skipper’s job because scheduling conflicts will prevent the original staff from coaching at the regional tournament. “Let’s get them the same exposure, get them some more games. Today, you saw how talented both teams are.”
Both teams went into the championship game undefeated (2-0). Dominic Signorelli, a 4A all-state selection from Moses Lake, who was named to the USA Today All-Washington team, went 2-for-3, scored a run and drove in a run with an RBI double to lead the No. 1 club. Catcher Cody Goodwin had a two-run shot in second inning, finishing 2-for-3 on the day, and Joe Taylor from Brewster also had two hits in three appearances.
AJ Pruneda, the big right-hander from Othello, went the distance for the No. 2 club, striking out four and walking one, while scattering 10 hits. He also went 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Jeff Sonneman from Brewster put on a hitting showcase, going 4-for-4 and scoring twice in helping the No. 2 club to the brink of winning the state championship.
“Playing against these guys is a different environment for sure. Playing against guys we’ve played with and guys we know,” Goodwin said. “But it’s fun to have to turn on the switch and compete. I think it really makes a statement. My team beat every other team by 10 runs, so I think it says we have something going on with River Dogs baseball.”
Even with Goodwin’s two-run homer and Lindgren’s two-out triple to give the No. 1 club a 5-3 lead after three innings. The No. 2 team responded with a single run in the fourth and tied it again on Hudson White’s RBI triple.
“I thought it was actually pretty fun going against these guys, because we’re all teammates,” Lindgren said. “They were giving us their best and they stepped up. We knew they were going to get up to play us, so we had to stay and not go flat the entire game.”
Temperatures reached triple digits all weekend. Smoke from the nearby fire at Soap Lake hovered in the air. But the only thing burning on Saturday at Johnson-O’Brien Stadium was the competitive spirit and the tradition of Columbia Basin River Dog baseball getting after it.
“My mentality today was to never give up, just keep throwing strikes. I gave up a couple of big hits, but all you can do is let it wash away and come back at ‘em,” Pruneda said. “When I was hitting my spots low and away, I was pretty effective.
“I think the fact we’re sending two teams to regionals with a chance to win says a lot about our team too.”
In other state tournament action:
13-year-olds — Brewster defeated Spokane 14-4 to win the state championship and advance to the regional tournament in Calgary, B.C. on July 23-29.
14-year-olds — Moses lake defeated Ephrata 11-8 to advance to the regional tournament at Woodland July 22-28.
River Dogs (No. 2) 102 110 0 - 5 11 2
River Dogs (No.1) 023 001 x - 6 10 0
HITS: No. 1 - Joe Taylor (2), Dominic Signorelli (2), Cody Goodwin (2), Dax Lindgren, Zac Berryman, Tristen Garland. Evan McLean. No. 2 - Jeff Sonneman (4), AJ Pruneda (2), Hunter White (2), Jacob Stibal, Klayten Northup, Conrad Hasse. 2B - Signorelli, Pruneda. 3B - Lindgren, White. HR - Goodwin
River Dogs (2) 8, Lakeside Recovery 0
River Dogs (2) def. BBB Kings
River Dogs (1) 14, BBB Kings 4
River Dogs (1) 14, Lakeside Recovery 1
BBB Kings 6, Lakeside 1
River Dogs (1) 6, River Dogs (2) 5