Resiliency was the word of the day for the Montesano 10U Little League All Stars in a district-championship showdown with Larch Mountain (Rochester) on Thursday at Pioneer Park in Aberdeen.
Montesano saw a six-run lead evaporate before rallying late to earn a wild 13-11 victory and District 3 title to boot.
Monte took a 1-0 lead just two batters into the game when Trey Gunter, who singled to leadoff the top of the first, came in to score on a Brody Messick double one batter later.
Messick made it a 2-0 game when he crossed the plate on a fielder’s choice groundout by Madden Maruska.
A two-out RBI single from Gunter in the second put Monte up 3-0 before Larch Mountain scored a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the third.
Monte blew the game open with a five-run fourth inning, paced by an RBI double from Gunter and a Messick two-run triple.
But the wheels fell off for Monte in the bottom half of the frame as errors and miscues led to the loss of its six-run lead.
Larch Mountain took advantage of four Montesano errors in the inning, scoring seven runs to take a 9-8 lead heading to the final two frames.
But rather than hang their heads, Montesano rallied led by the top of the batting order. Gunter led off with a walk followed by a Messick single. Gunter later scored on a passed ball to tie the game followed by Messick crossing the plate on a Maruska single as Monte regained the lead at 10-9 just three batters into the top of the fifth.
Kesten Delia, who came in to pitch the final out of the Larch Mountain fourth, tossed a key 1-2-3 frame in the fifth to preserve Monte’s slim lead.
A Messick one-out single drove in Lawyer Niemi with Monte’s 11th run followed by an RBI fielder’s choice groundout by Maruska for a 12-9 lead.
Messick then stole home to put Monte up 13-9 heading into the bottom of the sixth.
Larch Mountain rallied with back-to-back walks to leadoff the inning and, after a pitching change, Brayden Wheeler singled to score Owen Leicht. A Monte throwing error on the play also allowed Kaleb Johnson to score from first, cutting Monte’s lead to 13-11 and putting the tying run at home plate with no outs.
Myles Cayenne stepped to the plate and singled to Delia in center field. Wheeler was waved around third and Delia, who struggled to find the strike zone from the bump earlier in the inning, threw a strike to catcher Liam Braykovich at home to gun down Wheeler for the first out of the inning, sending a raucous roar from the throngs of Monte faithful.
Maruska beared down to get the final two outs, clinching the victory on a come-backer to his pitcher’s spot and an easy toss to Austin Maldonado at first to set off the championship celebration.
The top of the Montesano lineup did the bulk of the damage with Gunter (3-3, 2B, 4R, 2RBI), Messick (4-5, 2B, 3B, 4R, 4RBI) and Maruska (3-5, R, 3RBI) collecting 10 of Monte’s 13 hits, helping to overcome eight Montesano errors in the contest.
Delia picked up the win, allowing two runs on no hits and two walks in 1 1/3 innings pitched.
Maruska earned the save, allowing no runs on two hits after entering the game for Delia with two on and no outs in the sixth.
Eight of the 11 runs Montesano allowed were unearned.
Monte now advances to the state tournament where it will face District 1 champion Pacific Little League (Lynnwood) at noon on July 23 at Fort Vancouver Little League in Vancouver.
Montesano 210 523 — 13 13 8
Larch Mountain 002 702 — 11 7 1
Montesano — Messick (4-5, 2B, 3B, 4R, 4RBI), Maruska (3-5, R, 3RBI), Gunter (3-3, 2B, 4R, 2RBI), Delia (1-4, Beste (1-1, R), Barnes (1-3, R), Gaidrich (0-0, R, RBI, 3BB), Braykovich (0-1, 4BB). WP – Delia (1.1 IP, 2ER, 0H. 2BB). SV – Maruska (1.0 IP, 0R, 2H). ND – Maldonado (3.1 IP, 3R, ER, 2H, 5K, 3BB).