The Sandpoint Little League Majors All-Stars made the most of drawing to play powerhouses Lewiston and Coeur d’Alene back-to-back in the opening weekend of District 1 Little League action on June 29-30.
Even with the close 6-4, 9-8 losses, Sandpoint is still mathematically alive in the tournament.
Sandpoint came out of the gates strong against Lewiston by posting two runs in the first inning. Jorden Tyler tripled and was brought home by a Jesse Turner sacrifice fly. Jacob Aexel then picked up an RBI with a double to score Andrew Lehman.
Lewiston answered with two runs in the second inning and three runs in the third inning to take a 5-2 lead. Sandpoint cut the lead to 5-4 in the fifth inning when Tyler drew a walk and Lehman homered to center.
Lewiston added a run in the fifth inning, but Sandpoint could not generate any runs in the sixth inning, resulting in a 6-4 loss.
Lehman pitched a complete game for Sandpoint, striking out 12 Lewiston batters in the loss.
After the tough loss to Lewiston, the Sandpoint coaching staff of John Aexel, Dustin Reichart and Travis Tyler knew they needed to bring confidence into the next game.
Their opponent: a Coeur d’Alene Little League team looking to repeat on last year’s run to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Sandpoint lost last year to that team 10-0; the year prior, Sandpoint lost 22-5.
Sandpoint opened the game scoring three runs to take an early lead. Jorden Tyler singled and Andrew Lehman reached on an error. That set the stage for Jesse Turner, who crushed an RBI single to the fence. Both Lehman and Turner scored on wild pitches before Coeur d’Alene could get off the field.
Coeur d’Alene opened their half of the first with a combination of three walks and three singles to go up 5-3. The inning ended when catcher Gavin Day threw out a runner attempting to steal second base.
Sandpoint answered with one run in the second inning. Tyler walked, Lehman doubled off the fence, and Turner walked, before Jacob Aexel drew a bases loaded walk to tighten the score to 5-4.
Coeur d’Alene loaded the bases in the second, but managed only one run due to a spectacular third-to-first double play by third baseman Greysen Johnson. Coeur d’Alene would add another run in the third.
Sandpoint started the fifth inning down 7-4, in dire need of the some production from the bottom of the order.
Aexel, Coleman Inge and Jason Ringer led off the fifth with three straight walks. Cadin Billstin hit an RBI single, Inge scored on a wild pitch, and AJ Kobilansky tied the game with a sacrifice bunt, scoring pinch runner Parker Reichart to even the score at 7-7.
Turner pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the fifth to set up a dramatic sixth inning. Lehman led off the inning with a single and scored on Aexel’s RBI single to center, giving Sandpoint a 8-7 lead and needing only three outs for the win.
But Coeur d’Alene led off the sixth with a double and an intentional walk. After a strikeout, passed ball and another intentional walk, they had the bases loaded with only one out.
Their next batter hit a high fly ball that was caught in center field. The runner on third tagged up and scored, while the runner on second also tagged up and scored when the ball got away from the Sandpoint infielders.
District 1 action continues this weekend: Sandpoint faces Hayden at noon today, then Post Falls at noon at Canfield on Sunday.