PENDLETON — The baseball players on Pendleton’s 16U Pepsi Diamondjaxx have faced those on La Grande’s Legacy Legends for years. Because of that, they knew exactly what to expect.
“I’ve been playing against most of these kids since I was 9,” Pendleton starting pitcher Kobe Fell said. “I knew it was going to be tough.”
And Fell was right. In Wednesday’s home doubleheader, the Diamondjaxx dropped a 15-1 opener, but came back to take the second game, 15-9.
“Our team’s shaping up well,” Pendleton coach Nick Bower said. “We’ve come a long way since the beginning. Our chemistry is coming along. But we just came out flat today. Once (La Grande) jumped out to that early lead, we couldn’t recover.”
Fell got the first three outs of the game from the mound. While La Grande’s Daniel Rogers was able to single off him, Fell turned around and struck out the next batter, and nabbed a line drive for the second out. He threw two consecutive walks to load the bases, but fanned the next batter to strand all three runners.
But the Legends wouldn’t be denied for much longer.
Two walks and a sacrifice bunt put La Grande on the board in the top of the second, and Cole Jorgensen ended the scoring with a two-RBI single that kept them up 4-0.
Three innings later, Cesar Rodriguez and Derek Begin each drove in runs off singles. Pendleton finally scored in the bottom of the fifth.
Colton Henderson, who led Pendleton with a 2-for-3 batting performance, doubled to lead off the inning. With two outs on the board, Blane Peal singled, allowing Henderson to score a run. Before a second run was in question, Peal was tagged out stealing second.
But the Legends still weren’t through. They sent 12 batters to the plate in the top of the seventh, which got them eight more singles. Logan Williams sent a two-RBI double to left field, aiding in the six-run inning.
“Their hitting is great,” Fell said of La Grande. “Their fielding is average, but their hitting makes up for it. It’s their biggest strength.”
Rodriguez led the Legends, going 2-for-5 and scoring two runs and three RBIs in the opener. Williams went 2-for-4 and put up three more runs and a pair of RBIs.
“The kids have confidence,” La Grande coach Tyson Wicklander said. “That’s important. It’s summer ball — it’s good to be able to have fun.”
Game two looked to go the same way.
By the top of the second, the Legends had already jumped out to an 8-0 advantage.
With the bases loaded and just one out on the board, Jorgensen singled on a line drive to right field that put up three RBIs. The Legends would score a total of five runs by the end of the second inning.
The Diamondjaxx were scoreless for the first four innings, but that would soon change. In the bottom of the fifth, they reeled off nine runs to knot the score and stay in the game.
“The team can get down on themselves,” Fell said, “but after we start scoring some runs, it’s easy to keep our heads up.”
La Grande’s Derek Begin walked two and Collin Primus singled to start the inning and load the bases. From there, Pendleton kept all bases occupied as the runs kept coming in. Jim Smith doubled on a fly ball to left field that drove in two RBIs, and he and Peal then took advantage of a pair of passed balls to pull within one run of the Legends.
La Grande swapped in Sergio Staab on the mound in an effort to stay ahead, but Primus singled on his second at-bat of the inning to drive in a run and even the score at 9-9.
Staab walked a batter and hit another in the bottom of the sixth, allowing Peal to double and score two more RBIs as Pendleton shot ahead and stayed that way until the end.
“Pendleton is historically known for being a good baseball program,” Wicklander said. “My kids know this. You can’t ever slack on a team like that.”