The Lake Oswego Little League Majors all-stars knew that the Pacific Northwest Regional tournament — the gateway to the Little League World Series — would be a stiff challenge.
And the Lakers found out just how right they were in their Sunday, Aug. 8, tournament opener, falling 5-0 to Eastlake Little League of Sammamish — the Washington state champion — at Al Houghton Stadium in San Bernardino, California. Next up, Lake Oswego will face the loser of Monday's Montana-Idaho contest at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10.
The story of LO's opener was Washington pitchers Eli Jones and Sanath Chari, who teamed up to shut out Lake Oswego (the District 4 and Oregon champion) on one hit and five walks while striking out 10.
"It was pretty difficult to hit (them), but I bet if we played them again we could hit them," said Lake Oswego 's Ethan Uecker, who went 0 for 3 at the plate.
"They were pretty good, (but) nothing we couldn't hit, though," added pitcher/first baseman/right fielder Chase Kelly, who went 0 for 2 at the plate with a walk and pitched 1 2/3 innings, allowing one run on no hits and three walks while striking out two. "(It) just wasn't our day at the plate."
Washington took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Jones singled to center field, moved to third on a wild pitch and a groundout, then scored on Kellen Kinney's sacrifice fly to right field.
Lake Oswego stranded Ellis Bayne after a leadoff walk in the first, and after pitcher Ben Robertson shut down Washington with a 1-2-3 inning, LO left Jackson Caylor at first after a two-out walk in their half of the second.
In the third, however, Washington broke through for three runs to take a commanding 4-0 lead. Jackson Wheeler and Jones got things started with back-to-back singles to left, Logan Rausch followed with an RBI single to right and Chari made it 4-0 when he drove in two runs with a single up the middle.
Lake Oswego wasted walks to Kelly in the third, Crew Corry in the fourth and Bayne in the fifth before Robertson got his team's lone hit — a leadoff single in the bottom of the sixth. But Chari bore down to preserve the shutout, setting down the next three LO batters (two by strikeout) to end the game.
Washington's last run came in the top of the sixth when Sule Tian reached base on a fielder's choice with one out, took second on a wild pitch and scored when Walter Steinbok singled to right off reliever Beckett Heher.
Despite the loss, Lake Oswego's players said they enjoyed the day and vowed to come back.
"It was a very nice field and it was a really cool experience," Kelly said, adding that winning on Tuesday "(is) going to take lots of hard work and it's going to be a challenge, but I know we can do it."
"It was really cool to play on (that) field — it felt like I was on an MLB field," Uecker said, adding that the next game is "not going to be easy. We're going to have to focus in on the games in front of us and play baseball the way that we play baseball."
For the game, Robertson threw four innings and allowed four runs on five hits and no walks while striking out four.
Jones got the win after throwing 3 1/3 innings, allowing no runs on no hits and four walks while striking out three. Chari was great in relief, pitching 2 2/3 innings and allowing no runs on one hit and one walk while striking out seven. Jones went 2 for 4 and scored twice, while Chari went 1 for 3 and drove in two runs.
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