PENDLETON - The Pendleton Nationals 15-year-old all-star baseball team is headed to Eagle Point, Oregon to compete for regional title.
After defeating La Grande 11-3 in their first game of the Babe Ruth all-star state tournament, which was held in Astoria this year, the rest of the competition fell victim to the solid defense and strong offensive onslaught put on by the Nationals. They breezed into the championship game, beating Seaside 4-2, Chalem 5-2, Reynolds 10-2, and Southeast Portland 10-4.
Then came the championship game against Salem.
"Everything that could have gone wrong in a baseball game went wrong," said Greg Whitten, coach of the Pendleton Nationals.
Both Salem and the Nationals had seven hits apiece in the contest. Unfortunately, the Nationals' six errors allowed Salem to capitalize on the base paths. Salem scored nine runs; Pendleton scored one.
"It was a strange tournament," Whitten said. "The wind from the coast knocks down everything in the air. The outfield grass was long and wet. But we need to focus on regionals now."
So how are the Nationals going to become more focused in order to triumph over the tough competition the regional tournament attracts?
"The key to any game is pitching," says Whitten. "We need to make routine plays and the occasional great play and we will win. Our team plays at a high level, and the better the competition, the better we'll play.
"These kids have amazing knowledge of the game for such a young age. There is no hesitation. It's just a matter of execution."
Keeping errors to a minimum and putting the bat on the ball will be crucial for the Nationals' success in the tournament. They'll need to bring more than just their game faces to the team's first ever regional competition.
"We are not going to be intimidated," says catcher Tucker Whitten. "We should win this thing."