NASELLE - To paraphrase the timeless poem of "Casey at the Bat" - yes, there is still joy in Mudville for Mighty Casey has ... won the coin toss???
It took a coin flip to continue their all-winning season, but when that flip came up in favor of the team from Okie's Market of Naselle, the Okie's Hawks team was in the finals of the Lower Columbia Cal Ripken AAA season-ending tournament played on Naselle's Lions Park Field last weekend.
The 10 teams which played in the tournament are in the "minor-major" division of age 11 and 12 year old baseball players, with most of the teams from the Oregon side of the Columbia River. The tournament games were played on the Lions Park Field, with losers bracket game played on the Rueben Penttila Field at the Naselle school.
Coming into the tournament, the Okie's Hawks team had a perfect season record. They extended that record with two wins on Friday and Saturday, putting them up against the Knappa (Oregon) Blues in the semifinal game of the tournament on Saturday afternoon.
Okie's held an 8-2 lead going into the bottom of the last inning when the Blues began to peck away at their lead. The Blues eventually narrowed the lead to 8-7 and had the bases loaded with two outs. The Knappa batter then hit a grounder to the first baseman, which had third out written all over it, when the baseball gods intervened.
The grounder hit a spot on the manicured infield which caused the ball to bounce right over the first baseman's head, a "grounds-keeper's single." A run scored, to tie the game at 8, and the bases were still loaded. However, the next Blues batter struck out to end the inning.
League and association rules require tournament games to be ended at a time limit which had been reached. However, since there wasn't another game scheduled for nearly an hour, the two teams' coaches agreed to play an extra inning to see if a winner could be determined.
When neither team could score in the extra inning, the tournament officials flipped a coin. The flip came up in Naselle's favor and the Okie's team moved on to the finals while the Knappa Blues dropped into the consolation bracket.
Okie's met a team sponsored by the Daily Astorian in the finals. Since that team had come through the losers bracket, they had already played seven games in the two day tournament and they were pretty well out of pitchers.
The Okie's Hawks, however, were going into the finals with fresh pitchers and other players since they had only played three games in the tournament. The Hawks continued their all-winning ways with a 12-0 trouncing of the Astorians and the Steve Sultemeier coached Hawks had their tournament first place trophy and a perfect season.