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Never-say-die Bandits rally to win Series berth

Mound Time comes from behind big-time to win a berth in the World Series
by: Miles Vance BAT MAN — Mound Time’s Josh Lewellen connects for a hit during his team’s win over Meridian, Idaho, in the Pacific Northwest Regional Tournament at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer.

KEIZER - The teams at the upcoming Babe Ruth World Series for 14-year-olds better be forewarned - do not overlook the Mound Time Bandits.

The Bandits, after all, have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they just won't quit.

Never.

First, the team came back from a second-place finish at the Northern Oregon Babe Ruth State Tournament and edged into regionals when the tournament champion from Vancouver, British Columbia, chose not to attend.

Then, after starting the Pacific Northwest Regional Tournament - held Aug. 1 through Saturday at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer - with three straight pool play wins and a semifinal victory, the Bandits found themselves trailing 9-3 four-and-a-half innings into the tournament championship.

But the Bandits never even considered quitting.

Instead, the team rallied with seven runs in its final three at-bats on Saturday, knocked off Kelso, Wash., 10-9 and won a berth in the upcoming Babe Ruth World Series for 14-year-olds. That event begins with a series of four pool play games from Aug. 21-24, then championship play on Aug. 25-26. All games will be held at Glen Allen Stadium in Glen Allen, VA. Mound Time is currently 50-12 on the season.

'Our coaches just told us to keep our heads up and we'd win,' explained Mound Time shortstop/second baseman Rob Lavey, who went 1-for-4 and scored once in the title contest.

'It was hands-down the biggest comeback I've ever seen in baseball considering the stage the kids were on and the timing of the comeback,' added Mound Time manager Greg Cero. 'The kids deserve all the credit in the world.'

The Bandits routed Casper, Wyo., 18-4 in their tournament opener on Aug. 1, beat Willamette Valley 10-3 on Aug. 2, knocked off Burlington, Wash., on Aug. 3, then completed pool play with a 14-4 win over Meridian, Idaho, Friday. The Bandits then knocked off the Salem Steelheads 7-4 on Saturday to reach the title game.

Mound Time 10, Kelso 9

Mound Time and Kelso took turns trading shots for the first four innings of Saturday's title game, with the Bandits' three-run third keeping them in front 4-3.

But Kelso broke through for five runs in the top of the fifth and seemed to take control of the tournament finale. There, Kelso sent 10 batters to the plate, banged out four hits and used three walks to push ahead 9-3, the key hits along the way a two-run single to left by Steven Christien-Zandi, and an RBI single from Quinton McDaniel.

'We were all kind of down. It seemed like no one was into the game,' said Mound Time right fielder/pitcher Josh Hill, who went 2-for-3 and scored twice.

'They're good hitters and they just kind of deflated us,' Lavey added.

Mound Time rallied with a single run in the fifth to make it 9-4 when Hill singled, advanced on a Zane Chitwood hit and scored on James Armstrong's double to center.

The Bandits kept the pressure on in the sixth and tacked on four more runs to close within 9-8. Josh Lewellen got things started when he reached base on an error and scored on Lavey's single to center. Mound Time then got a walk by Hill and a Matt Orcutt single to load the bases, brought Lavey home on a balk, then added RBI singles by Parker Stidham and Chitwood.

Hill, who came on in relief of Lewellen in the fifth, struck out two to keep Kelso scoreless in the sixth inning, then benefited from a double-play in a 1-2-3 seventh.

And in the bottom of the seventh, Tony Niehuser got things started with a single, moved to third when Lewellen and Lavey walked back-to-back with one out, then scored to tie the game when Hill was hit by a pitch. That brought Orcutt to the plate and he delivered on the first pitch, singling to center field to plate Lewellen with the game-winning run.

'As soon as Orcutt hit that ball, I knew we were going to win,' Lewellen said.'

'We had the World Series at stake. It was huge,' Hill said. 'There was a big dogpile on the field. I can't even describe it.'

'Our kids were very mentally tough the last half of that game and tried to win every pitch and at-bat,' Cero added. 'I believe the kids and parents and coaches learned some life lessons that night that will stay with us long after baseball. It was an electric night.'

For the game, Hill, Orcutt and Armstrong led Mound Time with two hits each and Lewellen had two RBIs, while Bryce Olson had three hits for Kelso and got two RBIs from Christien-Zandi.

To see a complete photo gallery from Mound Time's regional tournament appearance, please go to www.milesvance.exposuremanager.com.