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Riverdog coaches discuss regional performances

by IAN BIVONA
Sports Reporter | July 29, 2022 1:20 AM

COLUMBIA BASIN – With a trip to the Babe Ruth World Series on the line, both the 13U and 15U Columbia Basin Riverdogs squads battled in regional competition throughout the week.

“So far, so good,” 15U Head Coach Jaime Vela said. “The boys have been playing well.”

The 15U Riverdogs began play on Monday in Kelso, defeating Glacier (Montana) 8-1 in the first game of regionals. Following a day off on Tuesday, Vela’s squad mounted a 10-run comeback win against the Centerfield Bulldogs.

The 15U Riverdogs left the first inning with a 3-0 lead; however, the Bulldogs came out with hot bats. Before long, the deficit was 13-3 in favor of Centerfield.

“We gave up seven in the first and six in the second,” Vela said. “After that, I basically got the guys together and told them ‘You know, it’s 13-3, we have two options; we can either roll over and give up and just hope for the best, or we can battle this thing through one pitch at a time.’”

Little by little, the Riverdogs began to chip away.

“Don’t try to get all 10 runs back in one inning,” Vela said of what he told his team during the deficit. “Take each pitch pitch-by-pitch, and then at-bat-by-at-bat.”

As the game carried on, the Riverdogs had locked in on the mound and scored a handful of runs each inning. By the top of the seventh, Centerfield’s lead was down to two runs. Some clutch hits tallied on an additional three runs, giving the 15U Riverdogs a 17-16 win over Centerfield.

“It was a pretty surreal game,” Vela said, “I mean it was an awesome one to watch.”

The players wore pink-colored jerseys to honor Vela’s mother, who is currently battling breast cancer.

“It means a lot to me as a coach, because the boys showed up before the game in some pink uniforms,” Vela said. “They’re pretty inspired (because of) my mom, who’s battling breast cancer right now. It’s pretty symbolic in the whole thing.”

Vela credited Ryder Mann for being a “voice in the dugout throughout the entire year” and his performance in the comeback win, as well as Johnny Montemayor and Cruz Martinez for coming in and relief pitching. Nolan Betz’s bat was hot in the first game against Glacier, as well as Jackson Carlos.

The 15U Riverdogs sit at 2-1 after three games of pool play, after falling to Sandy Pack in the third game of pool play.

Also on the west side were the 13U Riverdogs, competing at the Babe Ruth Regionals in Ferndale. The 13U squad began pool play with an 8-4 win over Kelso, but ran into tough competition as the games continued.

“It’s an accomplishment in and of itself to get here,” 13U Head Coach Jaret Fulbright said.

The Riverdogs fell 2-1 to the Stilly Venom and bounced back on Tuesday against South Douglas from Oregon, winning 11-6. With a 2-1 record in pool play, the team prepared to face Willamette Valley out of Oregon.

“We faced some really good competition,” Fulbright said of the teams at the regional.

Willamette hadn’t allowed any runs in its two prior games and carried on their stern defense. The Riverdogs fell 13-4 and sat at 2-2 in need of a tie-breaker to continue on.

“I’m extremely proud of them,” Fulbright said. “They’ve worked hard, their ultimate goal was to make it to the World Series, but they fell a little short.”

Fulbright, who has coached some of the players since they were 9 years old, enjoyed the moments with the players before some of them move into high school baseball.

“It’s a little emotional to see some of those guys go, especially with the time spent with them,” he said. “They’re going to go on and do great things.”

The 15U Riverdogs will play again today at 4 p.m. against the 15U Mudcats.

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

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