Bandits roll into title tilt

The team goes 4-0 in pool play, then knocks off Salem in its semi
by: Miles Vance HERE IT COMES — Mound Time’s Tony Niehuser delivers a pitch against Meridian, Idaho, on Friday.

KEIZER - Mound Time showed it again and again and again at regionals.

The 14-year-old all-star baseball team just wouldn't quit.

The last two examples of that prior to Saturday's championship game (for more on that, please see the accompanying story) came in its 14-4 pool play win over Meridian, Idaho, on Friday, and in its 7-4 victory over the Salem Steelheads on Saturday. All games in the Pacific Northwest Regional Tournament were held at Volcanoes Stadium.

After the win over Meridian on Friday, Mound Time left fielder Matt Orcutt explained it this way:

'We were just hoping for a big win to make sure we stayed hot and don't let down on Saturday,' he said. 'I started to get a little nervous (when Mound Time's lead shrank to 5-3), but we stayed strong and we finished it out.'

'We just didn't really show any life for a while, but the coaches got us going and I knew we'd come back and put it away,' added shortstop Josh Lewellen.

In the team's Friday win, Mound Time used three walks, a hit batter, three Meridian errors and an RBI single by Josh Hill to lead 3-0 in the first inning, then made it 5-0 in the second thanks to four more Idaho errors.

Meridian edged back within 5-3 after four innings, but Mound Time put the game away with one run in the fifth and eight more in the sixth. In that watershed sixth, Mound Time sent 11 batters to the plate and banged out seven hits to win, including a two-run single by Lewellen, and RBI hits from Tony Niehuser, Nick Pullen and Orcutt.

Next came Saturday's 7-4 victory over the Steelheads, a team Mound Time had already battled numerous times over the summer. In that game, Lewellen walked and scored on a Hill groundout in the first, then added RBI walks by Parker Stidham and Zane Chitwood in the third to lead 3-0.

Salem came back to tie the game with two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth, its third run coming when Ben Tinnel singled, stole two bases and scored on Cody Hagopian's hit. But Mound Time put the game away with four runs in the final two innings, getting an RBI double in the sixth from Ryan Kaser, and a two-run double by Kaser in the seventh.

'When Kaser had his hit and we scored those two runs, I knew we were going to win it,' said Mound Time second baseman Rob Lavey.

'They're definitely our rivals so I was happy because I wanted to get revenge on them for beating us at state,' Hill added.

For the game, Kaser went 3-for-4 and knocked in three runs, while Stidham threw a complete-game seven-hitter with eight strikeouts.

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