By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — Facing a full count with none out and the bases loaded, Nathan Basden drew the game-winning walk to score Bryce DeLeon as Laurel Lanes repeated as 12U Cal Ripken baseball champions in a 4-3 win in extra innings over Elks in the City Championship on Thursday at Lincoln Park.
“It was really a pitchers’ game,” Laurel Lanes manager Brian Shimko said.
DeLeon singled to open the bottom of the seventh, moved to second on a passed ball, and after an infield blooper landed safely, moved to third when Colton Romero walked to load the bases for Laurel Lanes.
“Basden is our cleanup hitter and he worked the full count and took ball four,” Shimko said.
Basden, the team’s starting catcher, had come in on relief for Laurel Lanes’ starter Colton Romero when Romero hit the Cal Ripken pitch count limit in the seventh inning.
Romero struck out 11 in two appearances spread across five innings.
He also singled along with Hayden Hull during Laurel Lane’s 3-run fifth inning.
“He was the dominant pitcher in our league,” Shimko said. “Some kids were a little afraid of how fast he throws the ball. We would start him, take him out and close him during games. It took me a little while to figure out how to manage him and work within the pitch count.”
Romero struck out seven in the first three innings Thursday, then gave way to DeLeon in the fourth and DeLeon struck out a pair of batters.
After Laurel Lanes took a 4-1 lead in the fifth, Romero wasn’t able to shut the door completely as Elks rallied to extend the contest.
“We couldn’t close it out in the sixth,” Shimko said. “There was lots of nerves on the mound and we walked a few, Elks got some hits and they got back into it and tied it up.”
Romero ran out of pitches in the seventh, so Shimko went with Basden, a four-year starter in his final Cal Ripken game.
“He came on and struck out the side in a tied game,” Shimko said.
And then drew the repeat-sealing walk in the home half of the inning.
“It was such a close race this year,” Shimko said. “The league was really even across the board and it seemed like every week the first place spots were constantly changing. We came on strong late.”
Shimko said all five of his infielders will return next season, so a third title wouldn’t be out of the question.
“That was a cool part of this season, we only had to draft four kids, so we had lots of returning players from last year’s championship team. Bryce started as a 10-year old, Hayden, too, so we will have five 11-year old starters coming back.”
And Shimko saluted long-time sponsor Vern Elkart, owner of Laurel Lanes.