MILTON-FREEWATER - The Pendleton 10-11-year-old All-Stars wrapped up a dominant tournament run in Milton-Freewater, beating the Grant County All-Stars 14-4 in five innings Friday for the District 3 title and earning a berth in the state tournament.
Not only was it the fourth time in as many games that Pendleton won by 10 or more runs, the three walks issued by Pendleton pitchers were the first they had allowed in the tournament.
It's hard to believe that coming into the tournament, Pendleton was a team that many observers questioning their chances of bringing home the title.
"It just shows the heart these kids have, especially today (Friday)," assistant coach Matt Chase said. "Grant gave us a good run but we've been preaching to the kids, 'If you play you're game, good things will happen'. It's been our catch phrase throughout the tournament."
For Grant County, five consecutive days of baseball coupled with triple-digit temperatures for most of the week finally took its toll on the team.
"Playing in the middle of the day, playing these games in over 100 degree weather really wore on the kids," Grant County coach Dusty Williams said. "They were sluggish today. Coming through the losers bracket kind of wears on you too."
Williams said he thinks Pendleton should do well in the state tournament with their lethal mix of hitting and pitching.
Pendleton started Bryan Branstetter from the mound, his first action in the tournament. He went two full innings and got the win.
"He was a little shaky at first but then he calmed down and got us out of innings," Pendleton coach Tom Phelan said.
Phelan said Branstetter was a "secret weapon" of sorts for his team, a pitcher he was saving for the title game to keep other teams from getting a scouting report on him.
P.J. Schubert came on to relieve Branstetter in the third and also pitched two solid innings before giving way to Taylor Hillmick to start the fifth.
"Taylor Hillmick suffered through the heat behind the plate and then came in and shut them down," Phelan said of his starting catcher. "Our pitching really anchored us, not just in this game, but in the whole tournament."
Williams said he knew Pendleton would hit the ball, especially since they had spent their top hurler getting to the championship. He said he had no regrets though, because his team had to win their semifinal game to even get a shot at Pendleton.
"The boys did a wonderful job," he said of his team's second-place finish.