Sandy reaches finale of Northwest Regional

CAL RIPKEN - Sandy's 10U all-star team comes up one win short of spot in World Series
by: David Ball Sandy’s Levi Rotzien gets up after sliding home during the state tournament.

Sandy was thrilled after winning the 10U state Cal Ripken baseball title a week ago. The team was down right delirious after starting the Northwest Regionals with four straight wins, marking the furthest a Sandy team has ever advanced in the tournament.

The Pioneers moved the emotional gauge one more notch when Brody Diaz DeLeon cleared the bases with a triple down the right-field line to give Sandy a 3-1 lead in the first inning of the championship game against Willamette Valley.

But the Salem-area squad bounced back to take the lead for good with a four-run spurt in the second inning on its way to a 14-3 win.

'There is no doubt Willamette Valley was the team to beat,' Sandy coach Chris Hutchings said. 'We were counting every out, because we knew we were going to need every one we could get. It didn't matter where we pitched the ball, they were crushing everything.'

The loss left Sandy one game short of a trip to Virginia for the Cal Ripken World Series next month.

'Our goal when the summer started was to win state. We had no idea we'd go as far as we did,' Hutchings said. 'Winning those four games was really rewarding, and we can't wait to get another chance next year.'

Sandy reached the finals with a 5-3 win Saturday against Vallivue, Idaho, putting up three runs in the first inning to gain a lead it would never surrender.

'Idaho had all these really big kids on the team, so we knew that was going to be a tough game,' Hutchings said.

The Pioneers extended to a 5-1 margin when Joe Barry hit a double to lead off the third inning and came around to score on a hit to right field by Colby Carson.

But it was solid defense that saved the game with Gabe Burton-Sparks racing to snag a fly ball over his head in left field, and Levi Rotzien coming up with a sliding catch in center field. Both plays stranded Idaho runners in scoring position.

Sandy went 3-0 in pool play, earning a top seed for bracket play

'It was an experience of a lifetime for these kids,' Hutchings said. 'Every game seemed to be a nailbiter that came down to the final inning, and the kids were ready to go each time out.'

Look for extended coverage in the July 27, edition of The Sandy Post.