PENDLETON — Pendleton’s 17U legion season opener Friday was a battle that ended in narrow defeat.
Hodgen Distributing kicked off their summer ball program with a heartbreaking 6-5 loss to the visiting La Grande Legacy Legends. Pendleton got big hits from Curtis Simons and Pilot Rock’s Logan Weinke, but the effort fell short.
“That’s baseball,” Hodgen Distributing head coach Wes Armstrong said. “The ball falls a couple of different ways, and it’s a different game. La Grande has a great program.”
The game was part of a weekend-long Ashlee Hodgen Memorial Tournament, which also welcomes teams from Hermiston, Meridian, Pasco, Clark County, Baker City, and Vancouver. The tournament, now in its fourth year, was named after Ashlee Hodgen, daughter of assistant coach Mike Hodgen, who died in 2015.
Pendleton will play two more games today to close out the tournament — one against Hammertime from Hockinson, Wash., at 12:30 p.m., and another against Hermiston at 8 p.m. Both will be at Bob White Field.
“So far, so good,” tournament director Travis Zander said. “We had great weather — just a little downpour. It helped settle the dust on the field. Mike, coach Wes, our volunteer Doug Rowe, and our umpire assigner Rick Jaggers have all done a great job. We couldn’t do any of this without them.”
Legends third baseman Wyatt Earp drew a walk and took third on back-to-back wild pitches in the top of the first. What followed sent the game into a screeching halt.
With Parker Robinson batting for La Grande and Pendleton’s Cooper Roberts on the mound, Robinson hit a hard line drive that clipped Roberts in the back of the head. He was sent to the hospital and received three staples in his scalp.
Armstrong said Roberts will be back on the mound “eventually,” but it is unclear when.
Earp would score on the hit to give the Legends their first lead.
Tanner Sweek stepped onto the hill in place of Roberts, and would tally nine strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings to keep the game within reach.
In the top of the third, Robinson smacked a double to deep centerfield to score a run, and advanced to third on the throw. Robinson crossed home on the next at-bat to give the Legends some breathing room.
“It’s part of baseball,” Robinson said. “You gotta come in clutch for your team. At the time, it just happened to be me.”
Simons homered over the left field fence to bring Hodgen Distributing within one run of the lead in the bottom of the third, and Jordan DeGeer’s single drove in a run to knot the score.
The home run was Simons’ first of his career.
“That was important for all of us,” Simons said. “It felt really good, as a sophomore, to get my first home run on this field.”
But La Grande was quick to take over once again — Logan Paustian’s RBI-double in the top of the fourth gave the Legends an advantage they wouldn’t relinquish.
Weinke’s solo homer came in the bottom of the seventh, when he sent the second pitch over right field and out of the park. It would bring Pendleton within one run of La Grande, but it wouldn’t be enough.
“We hit and pitched really well today,” Simons said. “I’m excited to see what we can do this season.”
Weinke led Hodgen Distributing with a 2-for-4 batting performance that scored a run and an RBI. Robinson went 3-for-4 with a run and two RBIs for La Grande.
“I like this team,” Armstrong said. “We’ve got some younger kids playing with our varsity kids. They’ll do good things together.”