YAKIMA, Wash. -- For the seniors on West Valley’s baseball team, the idea was both completely unacceptable and dangerously near.
Field crew for a district tournament in which you did not qualify.
“A few of us were talking about that at lunch and we just couldn’t let it happen,” Ryan Ross said. “Raking the field for other teams — nobody wanted that.”
To avoid such a ignominious chore, the Rams did what Ross said they do best — lean on each other — and that veteran fortification led to a 4-2 victory over East Valley on Wednesday as the CWAC district tournament opened with a pair of loser-out games.
Ross provided the clutch bat, driving in the first and last runs, and pitcher Dylan Peters went the distance for West Valley, which will join Othello, a 7-3 upset winner at Ephrata, in Saturday’s final four on the Rams’ home field. In the semifinals, Othello will play second-seeded Ellensburg at 10 a.m. and West Valley will face league champion Selah at 1 p.m.
“This group has been together since Little League so I knew they’d stay loose even with a lot on the line,” said WV coach Ryan Froula, who had seven seniors in his starting lineup. “We battled, got guys on base, moved them over, played good defense and Dylan was a workhorse. We did what we needed to.”
East Valley didn’t make it easy, working through three pitchers and jam after jam to deny West Valley a breakout inning. With the Rams stranding 10, including seven in scoring position, the Red Devils stayed within a run through five innings.
But when West Valley needed the biggest insurance run of its season, Ross delivered with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the sixth to score Justin Van De Brake, who had drawn a leadoff walk. Just as he did with his run-scoring triple in the first inning, Ross didn’t hesitate and pounced on an early offering.
“I roped one pretty good early in the count in the first inning and that was my mindset there,” Ross said. “I knew that was a big run out there and it was my job to get him in. Dylan pitched a great game and we needed to get him another run.”
Peters yielded nine singles — three to Zach Janis — but limited the damage by walking only one. And only one of those base hits came from the last 11 batters he faced.
“Dylan is like the consummate pro — he competes hard and even when he labors he makes pitches,” Froula said. “In all my years of coaching there’s been a few guys you can give the ball to and say, ‘See you in seven (innings).’ He’s one of them.”
West Valley (15-7) will now prepare to take on second-ranked Selah (19-2) on Saturday — two weeks after they split a doubleheader at Carlon Park. The championship game will cap the four-game lineup at 7 p.m. and the second state berth will be decided on Tuesday, also at West Valley.
“This was a big step and I was counting down the outs we needed from the fifth inning on,” Ross said. “All that matters is we’re still playing.”
East Valley 010 010 0 — 2 9 1
West Valley 102 001 x — 4 8 1
Rossow, Benedetti (3), Nester (6) and Marquez; Peters and Johnston.
Highlights: Dylan Peters (WV) CG, 3 K, 1 BB; Ryan Ross (WV) 2-4, 3b, 2 RBI; Devon Thomason (WV) 1-1, 2b, RBI; Zach Janis (EV) 3-4, SB; Matthew Hauck (EV) 2-4.