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Weekend Summer Baseball: I-5 Toyota/Mt. Dew Doubles Up Studs in Montana

By The Chronicle

MISSOULA — The local American Legion baseball team cobbled together a pair of wins last week after taking their talents on tour to Montana.

The I-5 Toyota/Mt. Dew squad defeated the Central Washington Studs by a score of 11-6 to kick things off on Thursday and then bookended that effort with a 12-6 win over the Studs in the morning game on Sunday.

In their final game of the week, I-5/Mt. Dew fell behind 3-0 in the first inning but got their bats going in the third and fourth innings to grab the victory. The Lewis County conglomerate scored three runs in the third and eight runs in the fourth inning before adding an insurance run in the seventh inning. Eli Brown had four hits in the game including a double and four runs batted in. Max Taylor added two hits and a pair of RBI, while Jared Winters chipped in two hits, three runs scored and a RBI.

Nolan Eyles earned the win on the mound with five runs allowed in five innings.

“The Eyels kid we picked up just before the tournament. He’s from Rochester and he did great for us. Didn’t walk anybody in five innings and that was key,” noted I-5/Mt. Dew Coach Tommy Grunenfelder.

The local squad fell to the Lewis and Clark Twins in the nightcap on Thursday, and the hard times continued until their rematch with the Studs on Sunday. On Friday, I-5/Mt. Dew fell 18-8 in five innings at the hands of the Walla Walla Bears.

The Bears scored five runs in the first frame and three in the second to post a big early lead, but I-5/Mt. Dew was undeterred at that juncture as they roared back with eight runs of their own to tie the game up in the bottom of the second inning.

The good times did not continue to roll for I-5/Mt. Dew, though, as they surrendered eight runs in the top of the third inning that let the game get away.

“The second inning, we had all eight of our hits that inning and we tied it back up 8-8. Our big problem this game was we just couldn’t throw strikes,” explained Grunenfelder. “We had 15 walks and a hit batter and when you’re playing against a team with college players you’re not going to beat them doing that.”

On Saturday I-5/Mt. Dew managed to play the host team tough before dropping their contest 4-2 against Missoula.

I-5/Mt. Dew took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning but managed just one more run the rest of the way on seven total hits. Eli Brown and Bodey Smith split the pitching and catching duties for the visiting team, allowing just six hits along the way.

“Eli Brown was outstanding. He had three strikeouts and only two walks,” noted Grunenfelder. “We just had that 2-1 lead going to the bottom of the sixth and then it started off with an error, then a couple of hits, and they scored both of their runs on a couple of squeeze bunts.”

Carter Olsen drove in the first run for I-5/Mt. Dew with a sacrifice fly in the second inning. Later. Eli Brown led off the fifth inning with a triple before coming around to score on a single by Britt Lusk.

Overall, Grunenfelder was happy with his team’s performance in the Big Sky state.

“I thought offensively the whole tournament we played really well. We scored a lot of runs but we just walked too many guys,” said Grunenfelder.

I-5 Toyota/Mt. Dew (9-6, 3-0 league) will host the Vancouver Cardinals on Tuesday and Lower Columbia on Wednesday at Wheeler Field.

RBI Dirtbags Take Second at Hammertime Tournament

HOCKINSON — For the second week in a row, Rural Baseball Incorporated came up one run short in a championship game. This time around, the Dirtbags fell 3-2 against the host team at the Hammertime Blast Invitational.

Bubbles Cantrell threw five scoreless innings in the title game in order to give the Dirtbags a shot at a victory, but the bats were sleepy until it was too late.

On the flip side, Zach Vanatta was spinning a no-hitter for Hockinson through six innings before his day came to an abrupt end. Vanatta led off the sixth inning with a triple off of reliever Chase Staup but wound up thrown out at home plate on an unsuccessful suicide squeeze attempt. After Vanatta elected to lower his shoulder in an attempt to lay out Dirtbag catcher Seth Butler, the Hammertime pitcher was ejected from the game by the umpire crew.

Hammertime still managed to score three runs in the inning, but with Vanatta out of the game, the Dirtbags smelled blood in the water and did their best to sink their teeth into the opportunity. Mekhi Morlin led off the top of the seventh inning for Rural Baseball with a hit up the middle to break up the no-hitter. Jacob Douglass drew a walk in the next at bat before Staup moved both runners up with a fielder’s choice. AJ Volk scored Morlin on a fielder’s choice and Butler wound up drawing a walk to put the tying run on board. Douglass wound up scoring on a passed ball that allowed Butler to move to third base but the rally fell 90-feet short when Jackson Hull struck out.

The championship tilt was a rematch of a flop of a game between Hockinson and Rural Baseball on Thursday. The Dirtbags showed up to that game lethargic from a lengthy drive to Camas and subsequently had a beating bestowed upon them before they every woke up as Hammertime won 11-1 in six innings. Jackson Hull pitched well for Rural Baseball in the first two innings with just one run and two hits allowed but the bullpen couldn’t hold water. Ben Woodrum led the Dirtbags’ offense with a 2-for-2 night that included a double that landed high up on the hill in left-centerfield. Hull, Staup, and Volk added one hite each.

The Dirtbags got back on the right track on Saturday morning with a 9-1 win over Washougal. Tyler Nelson earned the victory on the mound with one earned run allowed over five innings. Rural Baseball managed to score in every inning other than the sixth thanks to eleven hits. AJ Volk paced the Dirtbags with a 4-for-4 performance that included a bunt hit, a double, triple, a stolen base, two runs scored and a run batted in. Mekhi Morlin was 3-for-4 at the plate in the game with two runs scored, while Cantrell went 2-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored, a stolen base and a run batted in.

Rural Baseball came back on Saturday night to defeat the Vancouver Red Birds 10-3 and clinch a spot in the semifinals. A false start in the first inning by the Dirtbags’ pitching staff Matt Kurzeika entered in relief and cobbled together a line of 4 ⅓ innings pitched, with two hits, one run and five strikeouts to earn the win. The Dirtbags pounded out 15 hits in the game and committed just one error. Cody Towns led the way with a 3-for-3 effort at the plate and a run scored. Volk, Butler, Cantrell, and Morlin each added two hits to the Dirtbags’ tally.

In the Sunday morning semifinal Rural Baseball was able to dispatch the Fort Vancouver Bombers 7-1 to set up their rematch with Hockinson in the title tilt. Bubbles Cantrell pitched the first four innings of the semifinal, tallying 11 of his 12 outs by strikeout while allowing zero runs and the same number of hits. Ben Woodrum tossed three nearly perfect innings for the Dirtbags in order to preserve the win. Morlin and Butler had the only hits in the game for Rural Baseball as the Bombers pitching staff struggled to find the strike zone. Butler also scored a run and Morlin drove in a run.

“If nothing else we are getting pretty good at playing the role of pesky also-rans this summer,” said Rural Baseball coach Jordan Nailon. “In all seriousness, though, I was proud of the way the kids came out and found their stride after how ugly Friday night was. We camped out in a pasture and did a little howling at the moon for team bonding. We’ve learned that our guys can take a punch, stay on their feet, and keep swinging.”

Nailon had particular praise for Cantrell, Butler and Morlin.

“Bubbles continues to be our favorite horse in the barn. His effort on Sunday with nine scoreless innings and 20 strikeouts deserved a storybook ending. Butler, our catcher and three-hole hitter, is the throbbing heartbeat of our team. He refuses to come out from behind the dish even when everyone else is tired,” said Nailon. “And Morlin, he’s a late season call up who has found a number of ways to ingratiate himself to the team. For a kid who didn’t get a lick of opportunity at the high school level this year he certainly knows how to compete with a ball and stick.”

Rural Baseball Inc. will play at the Senior Babe Ruth State Tournament on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver.


At Camas


Rural Baseball 000 100 X — 1 5 3

Hockinson 016 031 X — 11 9 1

Batteries: Rural Baseball Inc. — Jackson Hull, Cole Bower (3), Kaden Harrington (3), Mekhi Morlin (4), Todd Tabor (6) and Seth Butler; Hockinson — Jake Talarico, Jaeger Stenl (5) and Evan Woolcott


At Hockinson


Rural Baseball 311 220 X — 9 11 0

Washougal 000 100 X — 1 8 1

Batteries: Rural Baseball Inc. — Tyler Nelson, Cole Bowers (6), Kyle Hamilton (6) and Seth Butler; Washougal — N/A

At Hockinson


Rural Baseball 100 135 0 — 10 15 1

Vancouver 200 010 0 — 3 5 2

Batteries: Rural Baseball Inc. — Jacob Douglass, Matt Kurzeika (1), Bubbles Cantrell (6), Chase Staup (7) and Seth Butler; Vancouver — Davis, Norton (6) and Jofts


At Hockinson


Rural Baseball 210 120 1 — 7 2 1

Ft. Vancouver 000 001 0 — 1 3 3

Batteries: Rural Baseball Inc. — Bubbles Cantrell, Ben Woodrum (5) and Seth Butler; Ft. Vancouver — Yeakley, Whitehead (5) and Whitehead and Smith (5)

At Hockinson


Rural Baseball Inc. 000 000 2 — 2 1 2

Hockinson 000 003 X — 3 6 0

Batteries: Rural Baseball Inc. — Bubbles Cantrell, Chase Staup (6), AJ Volk (6) and Seth Butler; Hockinson — Zach Vanatta, Jaeger Stenl (7) and Evan Woolcott

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