By MIKE FERGUSON
Baker City Herald
The Team Rudi Diamondbacks can, as their name implies, strike when the weather's hot.
Baker's American Legion squad did just that at an 11-team wooden bat tournament held in 103-degree Hermiston from Friday through Sunday, finishing third with a mark of four wins against one loss.
To make matters even more challenging for the Diamondbacks, the Hermiston tournament was a Triple A tourney, where players who have played college baseball are eligible.
The Diamondbacks have no such players all are either high school players or recent graduates.
andquot;It gave our kids a challenge to go out there and play,andquot; said Diamondbacks coach Dan Blankenship.
Still, the Diamondbacks were 3-1 in pool play Friday and Saturday, which qualified them for the third-place contest Sunday.
They won that game, defeating Pendleton, 2-1, to claim the third-place trophy.
In the opening game of pool play, the Diamondbacks defeated Fat Burger of Seattle, 6-5. Jordan Harlow gained the victory, pitching a complete game.
Harlow helped his cause with an RBI double in the first inning, and catcher Grant Marcum added a run-scoring double in the second.
The Diamondbacks scored three more runs in the fourth inning on RBIs by Marcum, Harlow and Derek Blankenship.
The second game Friday the Diamondbacks only loss in the tournament was frustrating, Coach Blankenship said.
The Diamondbacks dropped a 6-0 decision to Boise Capital High School.
andquot;We hit the ball harder that game (than in the first game), but we hit everything right at them,andquot; he said. andquot;We crushed some baseballs.andquot; Ty Everson pitched the first five innings, with Dekker Smith coming on for the final two innings.
Marcum and Cole Brown got two hits each, and Alex Clark, Blankenship and Smith had a hit apiece.
The result of the third game, on Saturday, was much more to the Diamondbacks' liking, an 8-0 victory over Eagle, Idaho. Brown earned a complete-game victory, striking out six and walking no one along the way.
Everson had two hits and drove in a run. Others collecting hits were Marcum, Brown, Blankenship, Clark and Justin Durflinger.
In the second game Saturday, the final game of pool play, the Diamondbacks defeated host Hermiston, 8-4. Smith was the winning pitcher with relief help from Blankenship, who pitched the final three innings. The two combined on a six-hitter.
Marcum had three hits and drove in a run. Brown chipped in with two hits and an RBI. Blankenship drove in two runs with one hit, and Harlow had one RBI and one hit. Smith smacked a double, and Trace Richardson had a hit and an RBI. Clark and Jon Woolard each had a hit.
The Diamondbacks and Boise Capital High School both finished pool play with 3-1 marks, but the Boise squad played for the championship because it defeated Baker in pool play. Treasure Valley All-Stars defeated the Boise team, 2-1, in the championship game.
The Diamondbacks overcame attrition to defeat Pendleton for third place Sunday. The locals were down to nine players after some left following Saturday's nightcap to attend basketball camp.
andquot;We were extremely young,andquot; Blankenship said, andquot;but the kids did an outstanding job.andquot; The Diamondbacks loaded the bases in the first inning, scoring all the runs they would need on a double by Smith.
Harlow gave up a run in the second inning. Everson took the mound in the third and pitched five shutout innings to gain the win.
andquot;We had a couple of double plays and a couple of pick-offs,andquot; Blankenship said.
Harlow had two hits in the finale, and Marcum, Brown, Smith and Everson each had a hit.
andquot;It was a great tournament for our kids,andquot; Blankenship said.
The Diamondbacks host Ontario Tuesday at the Baker Sports Complex, then travel to Pendleton Wednesday.