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World series host Riverdogs play hard, bested by Tropics

by IAN BIVONA
Sports Reporter | August 15, 2022 1:30 AM

EPHRATA – As the host team, the Columbia Basin Riverdogs began the 2022 16-18U Babe Ruth World Series under the lights at Johnson-O’Brien Stadium with a packed house.

With a win in the first game, a 10-0 win over the KUBA Kings, the Riverdogs started off pool play on a high note - however, struggles began soon after.

“You always want to play in a World Series,” Riverdogs head coach Jason Laugen said. “Ultimately you want to win one, but just like the state championship – there’s only one happy team at the end of the World Series.”

After the opening win, the Riverdogs fell to the Northwest Bakersfield Waves 6-0 on Sunday and the Stamford Thunder 3-1 on Monday. After a day off on Tuesday, the home team was on the brink of elimination against a fellow team from Washington, Farmers Baseball out of Brewster.

“We battled,” Laugen said. “Battled through this World Series. Two of our three losses were by a score of 3-1. Great ball games, and going out and competing.”

Farmers scored three runs in the top of the fourth inning to take a 4-2 lead, but Ethan Gustafson’s two-run homer in the bottom of the same inning tied the game at four. Insurance runs by Zane Harden, Gustafson and Beau DeChenne set the final score at 7-5 in favor of the Riverdogs.

“The level of competition that I saw is comparable, if not a little better than previous World Series that I’ve seen,” Laugen said. “I’ve seen teams come in here and make a lot more mistakes in the past, but these teams that are here right now - especially the teams that made the bracket play – they’re all good teams.”

The win elevated the home team into bracket play, reserved for the top three teams in each division. The matchup was set against the Southeast Tropics out of Chaffee, Missouri in the first round of the bracket.

“I’m proud of how these guys did,” Laugen said. “You know, just the moment – they really played well in big moments.”

Following a scoreless first two innings, the Tropics hit the scoreboard first on a fielder’s choice, where Drew Klipfel ran home for a 1-0 lead for Southeast. The Riverdogs followed soon after in the top of the fourth inning with an RBI single by Blaine MacDonald, sending Gavin Burns home for a 1-1 tie.

Still tied entering the bottom of the fifth inning, Klipfel was walked and Hayden Nazarenus’ two-run homer over the right field wall gave the Tropics a 3-1 lead, which would hold true for the win.

“The only separation today was one swing of the bat,” Laugen said. “Guy hits a two-run home run, and good for him. That Missouri team is a good team – they pitch well, they play good defense.”

The Riverdogs had a chance to tie with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh inning, but a groundout sealed the game in favor of the Tropics. The win advanced Southeast to the semifinals, and the Riverdogs were eliminated from World Series play.

“We competed until the end,” Laugen said. “We had bases loaded with two outs, a 3-1 count on the hitter. I was confident in Zane’s ability at the plate, and he’s been a great hitter for us all year. The kid made an amazing pitch, threw a great pitch and they got the out.”

Laugen spoke of the World Series experience, and what it’s like for the players involved.

“The World Series, it’s a good, culminating event,” he said. “A lot of these kids, in their high school careers, they look forward to two things – their state championships, and summer ball having a big, culminating event.”

Following the game, players received shirts in the Riverdogs’ teal-blue color, commemorating the World Series appearance.

“Jerry – our owner, really – he just gave some shirts to the kids in commemoration for the World Series. It was a nice gesture by him.”

Ian Bivona may be reached at ibivona@columbiabasinherald.com.

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Ian Bivona

Seth Olson leads off from first base with a teammate on second base, looking to advance.

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Ian Bivona

Andre Garza looks on from third base during the Riverdogs’ 3-1 quarter finals loss to the Southeast Tropics on Thursday.

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