Junior League all stars take third at state
Three wins after opening loss land Jefferson County unfulfilled opportunity
Jefferson County's Junior League all-star baseball team is sporting pins as the third-place finishers in the state tournament.
Having won three straight games while facing elimination, Jefferson County needed one more win, on July 23, against Portsmouth to emerge from the losers' bracket back to the championship round. Such was not to be.
Seeking revenge on its 11-9 first-round loss to Portsmouth, Jefferson County came within six outs of playing for the state title. It secured a lead on Portsmouth in the fifth inning for the second time in the tournament, only to lose both games.
Though frustrated for the players, having gotten so close only to lose, manager Mike Leno said the whole Jefferson County roster contributed to wins the team had against Silverton, Estacada and Brookings in the middle of its run.
Jefferson County's 13- and 14-year-old team was eliminated, 7-3, when a three-run uprising in the bottom of the sixth inning let Portsmouth pull away in a July 23 game.
The pressure of the contest got to the Jefferson County team at just the wrong times, Leno said. Two bobbled balls let Portsmouth bring up some of its top hitters during that sixth-inning, said Leno. He pointed to costly mistakes having had an effect in the fifth inning as well, when the Portsmouth team scored twice despite two singles being its only hits of the frame.
Tyler McKinney proved Jefferson County's Junior Leaguers' biggest pain. He tripled, doubled, singled twice and scored four runs for Portsmouth in the losers' bracket finale.
Closely contested for three innings, the semifinal game slipped into Portsmouth's hands in the fourth and fifth.
Jefferson County was locked in 2-1 and 4-2 battles earlier in that game before the winners put up the extra runs that left Jefferson County just far enough behind to make recovery unattainable.
Despite having McKinney score the first run of the game for Portsmouth, in the bottom of the first, Jefferson County starter Tyler Ellsbury proved his mettle on the mound and his tenacity at the plate. He doubled before coming in on a two-out, Jansen Harrington-single in the third inning. That tied the losers' bracket final, 1-1.
Portsmouth went back ahead in the bottom of the third in the losers' bracket final, but Bobby Thurby scored for Jefferson County to tie the game again, at 2, in the fourth. Thurby singled, advanced on a ground out and Jake Kleint single, then sauntered home from third on Ellsbury's single.
Shutting down Portsmouth in its fourth, Jefferson County took a 3-2 lead in the fifth when Harrington tripled with one out and scored on Chris "Charlie" Valenzuela-Casas' single. Portsmouth's defense turned more stingy for the rest of the game.
Jefferson County, as Leno had noted, proved more generous than it could afford. Surrendering just two hits in the fifth and three in the sixth, Jefferson County gave up two runs in the bottom of the fifth and three more in the sixth that proved decisive.
The strongest part of its tournament for Jefferson County, Leno said, came in the games leading up to the rematch with Portsmouth.
To earn its second shot at Portsmouth, Jefferson County had held off Brookings' bid to comeback and posted a 7-6 win on July 22.
Harrington used his teammates' support in picking up the pitching win in Jefferson County's narrow win over Brookings. Four runs in the first inning, sparked by singles from Ellsbury and Darrell Ceciliani in the first two spots in the lineup, helped Harrington.
Jefferson County's third and fourth runs in the first inning came through tours of the bases by Valenzuela-Casas and Thurby, after they singled and walked, respectively.
Cruising toward a shutout through the first three innings, Harrington padded his own lead by walking and scoring ahead of an A.J. Adams triple in the third. Albert Adams singled in A.J. Adams two batters later.
Jefferson County's scorebook showed Brookings cut the lead to 6-4 in its fourth with runs by Adam Ehlers, Derek Nelson, Tyler Parke and Jonathan Kennedy.
Ellsbury tripled leading off Jefferson County's fourth and scored on another Harrington hit to give the winners their final run. Brookings scored one run each in the fifth and seventh innings but were denied when Harrington struck out the last two batters.
Explosive first and second innings carried Jefferson County to the second of its third win at the state tournament.
With Ellsbury and Jake Prow walking, Harrington scored Ellsbury before Thurby doubled in Prow and Harrington in Jefferson County's first inning against Estacada.
One run by Estacada in the top of the second proved no match for the two-out onslaught Jefferson County mounted in the bottom of the frame.
A.J. Adams doubled for Jefferson County to lead off that inning only to be caught trying to get home after a sacrifice bunt by Cam Rosenfield. But, walks to Ellsbury and Prow, on either side of a Ceciliani single, eventually led to a nine-run outburst which Adams and Rosenfield capped with a double and triple.
Though giving up another pair of runs in the third, Jefferson County increased its lead to 13-3 when Ellsbury scored his third run against Estacada.
Silverton became Jefferson County's first victim in its run when two first-inning runs by Ellsbury and Harrington, were added to by eight more in the third.
Triples turned into the feat of the day for Jefferson County in its initial win of the event. Ellsbury and Harrington had two each while Ceciliani added another. Prow had Jefferson County's lone double.
Thurby scored two of Jefferson County's final three runs in the 13-3 win over Silverton as Harrington's pitching limited the Silverton hitters.