PENDLETON — With a runner on second base with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning and facing an 0-2 count, Hodgen Distributing’s Kyle Field dug back into the batter’s box looking for a pitch to hit.
Hodgen was tied 2-2 with Redmond in the championship game of the Ashlee Hodgen Memorial Tournament after Redmond scored one run in the top half of the inning on a throwing error by Field. Field was searching for an off-speed pitch from Redmond pitcher Kyle McKague, but instead McKague threw him a fastball on the outside corner. Field adjusted and connected with the pitch, which he flared into shallow right field — his only hit of the game — to score Tucker Zander from second for the walk-off 3-2 victory Sunday evening.
“When I got to first I was like ‘Oh my god, did we win?” Field said. “Then he (Zander) crossed home and it was a really good feeling to end the tournament that way and get the win.”
It was another impressive win for Hodgen Distributing, who finished its home tournament with a perfect 5-0 record on its way to winning the tournament championship for the second straight year. Hodgen showed it can win games different ways, from clobbering teams such as the 14-2 win over Baker and then 19-1 win over Mead, or grinding out two walk-off wins over Redmond.
“We have a good group of guys that just won’t quit,” Field said. “We have good work ethic, so we’re not going to roll over easily in a game. We’re going to keep pushing and we’re not going to let one run, two runs or 12 runs beat us.”
Redmond scored its other run in the top of the first inning, where the Panthers recorded three hits against Zander, who started on the mound for Hodgen, and pushed across a run on a fielder’s choice. But the home team answered the run in the bottom half of the inning. Curtis Simons and Ty Beers both reached base with singles, and then Quinn Doherty uncorked a towering double over the left fielder’s head, scoring Simons. Beers then scored on a groundout from Chris Large to put Hodgen in front 2-1.
The score would remain the same until the seventh inning, as McKague and Zander were locked into a pitcher’s duel. McKague set down 15 straight Hodgen batters at one point, not allowing a baserunner until the sixth inning on Doherty’s second double of the game. Zander allowed five hits from the second to sixth innings, but did not allow a run in that span as he pitched to contact and had a lot of help from his defense behind him.
Zander finished 6 1/3 innings in the game, allowing nine hits with two strikeouts but only one earned run.
“It felt great,” Zander said of his outing. “My coaches have been talking to me about pitching in the tournament, asking how I’m feeling. I knew they were going to get me in this morning after the game, they told me I was starting on the mound. I was just so happy and ready to go.”
Zander was lifted in the seventh after allowing a hit and two errors brought the tying run across and put the go-ahead run for Redmond on third with only one out. Tanner Sweek came on in relief and picked up Zander, getting a strikeout and a groundout to end the threat.
“That was nice,” Zander said. “Good part on Tanner, he’s worked hard throughout the year and to come in like that was unbelievable. He picked me up when I couldn’t get it done and it worked out.”
Zander then picked up a lead-off single to left to start the seventh and was moved over to second on a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt from Rudy Esparza. That brought Field to the plate and set up the game-winning hit.
HOW THEY GOT THERE
On Saturday, Hodgen finished up group play with a 8-7 walk-off win over Redmond and a 19-1 win over Mead (WA). Against Redmond, Hodgen trailed 6-2 after five innings, but a three-run double by Rudy Esparza and a RBI double from Field tied the game at 6-6. Then after Redmond took a one-run lead in the seventh, Justin Duso tied the game with an RBI single to left, and then Esparza singled to center to score the game-winning run.
“I’m extremely proud of them, not quitting even though we were down five runs at one point in the game,” Hodgen head coach Wes Armstrong said. “For them to battle back, chip away and win each inning, that’s awesome.”
Then against Mead, Hodgen pumped out 12 hits and worked seven walks to score its 19 runs. Esparza led the team with a perfect 3-for-3 game with three runs and two RBI, Field was 2-for-4 with a double and four RBI, Ryan Stahl was 2-for-3 with four runs and three RBI and Chris Large was 2-for-3 with five RBI. Matt Demianew pitched a five-inning complete game and allowed only one run with three strikeouts.
And Sunday morning, Hodgen punched its ticket to the tournament championship game with a 6-2 win over The Dalles. Large powered the team with a complete game on the mound, striking out nine and allowing only four hits and one earned run. Simons was 3-for-3 at the plate with two doubles and four RBI, Beers was 2-for-3 with two doubles and Esparza was 2-for-2.
CHAMPIONSHIP R H E
RED 100 000 1 — 2 9 0
HDG 200 000 1 — 3 6 3
(R) A. McKague and A. Carter. (H) T. Zander, T. Sweek (7) and R. Esparza. W — Sweek, L — McKague.
2B — C. Browning (RED); Q. Doherty 2 (HDG).
East Oregonian reporter Alexis Mansanarez contributed to this story.