CHEHALIS — The next crop of Peninsula-wide baseball talent already has a state championship under its collective belt as Wilder Baseball Club’s A-ball squad rallied to claim the Washington State American Legion Class A Baseball Championship on Wednesday.
Wilder A plated five runs in a furious seventh-inning comeback, highlighted by Lincoln Bear’s inside-the-park grand slam home run with two outs, to push past a stubborn North Idaho Lakers squad 11-7 for the state championship.
The area team previously beat I-5 Jeep Renegades 7-4 earlier Wednesday to reach the state title game.
“We battled back to take the lead in the top of the sixth and then give it right back in the bottom half,” head coach Greg Dickman, himself a former Wilder player, said. “They could’ve easily been deflated at that point.”
But the A team, made up of players ages 13 to 15 from Sequim, Port Angeles and Forks, wouldn’t quit.
Wilder loaded the bases with one out in the seventh when Kody Williams earned a catcher’s interference call on Northern Idaho to bring across the tying run.
“Kody swings and hits solid contact on the catchers mitt,” Dickman said. “Tie ballgame now with the bases loaded and one out.”
Bear came to the plate having already reached base twice with an RBI triple and an RBI single.
“After a strikeout, Lincoln comes up having an already great day,” Dickman said.
“First pitch swinging and I could tell right off the bat it was dropping. Then the outfielder dove and it fell a couple feet out of his reach and the ball rolled all the way to the wall. There’s big gaps at that field, so everyone was off to the races. Having already scored on a similar play in his previous at bat with a triple and overthrow, Lincoln found another gear this time. He was pushing for home. They didn’t make a perfect relay and Linc was safe.”
Wilder still had to hold Northern Idaho down in the final half.
“My starter Brandt Perry was reaching his limit on pitches and had 10 to work with,” Dickman said. “He allowed a firs- pitch single, then Brandt got the next guy to strikeout on three pitches.”
Perry was able to induce a 4-6-3 double play with second baseman Landen Olson scooping to Bryce DeLeon and DeLeon firing to Williams at first to seal the title.
“If Brandt doesn’t get the last kid to ground into a double play there, he’s not able to finish the game. Both of our starters gave tremendous pitching performances to each get complete games on championship day.”
Gunner Rogers also sparked Wilder in the title game, tripling to open the fourth inning with Wilder trailing 4-0.
The Peninsula-based team went 4-1 overall in the five-day tournament, opening with a 7-6 win over Northern Lakes, but had to work its way out of the loser’s bracket after a second-day stumble against I-5 Jeep Renegades of Chehalis/Centralia. Wilder A won three straight loser-out contests, besting Medical Lake 18-9 and knocking off North Idaho 10-7 to earn a rematch with the I-5 club in the semifinals Wednesday.
To reach the championship game, Wilder edged I-5 7-4 with Kody Williams leading the team on the mound and Devyn Dearinger coming up clutch with two big extra base hits.
“For Kody Williams to give us the outing in the first game to get us to the championship game was huge,” Dickman said. “It allowed us to have Brandt keep a good hitting club at bay just enough for our offense to explode.”
Dearinger opened the contest with a two-run double and also added an RBI double. Olson also added an RBI triple in the win.
“Devyn had been slumping a little bit, but a couple games earlier he found his groove swinging at pitches he can handle,” Dickman said.
This tournament wrapped the summer season for Wilder. American Legion Baseball doesn’t hold regional tournaments or a World Series for its Junior A and AA teams, just for Senior AAA squads.
Dickman is excited to see where the team can accomplish going forward.
“For this group of kids to play like they did when their tournament and summer baseball lives were on the line, just shows you the type of great young men they are,” Dickman said. “Their futures are bright, watch out baseball world.”
Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.