With three games remaining for the Sandpoint Little League Majors All-Stars, there was truly no room for error. Losses last weekend to both Lewiston and Coeur díAlene meant they needed to win out and hope for a bit of help to secure a spot in the district finals. When all the dust settled, it came down to math and every run allowed mattered.
Sandpointís defense made it count in a three-game blitz to earn a spot in the championship game. For the round-robin portion of the tournament, the Sandpoint Majors All-Stars scored 56 runs while allowing just 26. Lewiston allowed 28 runs and Hayden allowed 29. So Sandpoint, by a razor thin margin, advanced to the District Finals against Coeur díAlene, which start today. This is only the second time ever that Sandpoint Majors All-Stars has advanced to the finals; the last time was in 2016.
In game one against Lakeland, Sandpoint grabbed an early 3-0 lead in the first inning when Andrew Lehman homered after Sage Medeiros reached. Parker Reichart later singled in Hayden Miller.
Sandpoint tacked on two more runs in the second inning when Cadin Billstin and AJ Kobilansky scored.
Sandpoint starting pitcher Jacob Aexel pitched a third straight scoreless inning and the Sandpoint bats came alive in the bottom of the third. Coleman Inge singled and Jason Ringer doubled to lead off the inning. Gavin Day hit a sacrifice fly and Greysen Johnson doubled, staking Sandpoint to a 7-0 lead. Lakeland could not handle hard hit balls by Lehman and Jesse Turner, as Sandpoint eventually put up six runs to take a 11-0 lead after three innings.
Kobilansky relieved Aexel in the fourth inning with multiple baserunners on base, holding Lakeland to two runs scored. Ringer pitched a scoreless fifth inning, bringing up the heart of the Sandpoint batting order.
With the score 11-2, Sandpoint needed only one run to walk off with a mercy rule win. But Sandpoint only needed two pitches. Lehman skied the first pitch over the right fielderís head for a triple. Turner then laced his first pitch into the outfield grass to knock in the game winning run and a 12-2 final score. One down, two to go.
Then Sandpoint faced a must-win game against Hayden ó another District 1 Little League powerhouse.
Andrew Lehman was on the mound for Sandpoint and used an overpowering fastball to strike out four Hayden batters in the first two innings. But Sandpointís offense could not generate any runs either, so the teams entered the third inning tied 0-0.
Gavin Day led off the third with a single and Cadin Billstin reached on an error. Jesse Turner came through with a huge two out single to score them both, giving Sandpoint a 2-0 lead. Hayden later managed to score a run in the fourth to cut the lead to 2-1.
Sandpoint tacked on three runs in the fifth inning when Coleman Inge, Lehman, and Sage Medeiros all scored. Sandpoint knocked Haydenís starting pitcher out of the game in the process, building a 5-1 lead. Likewise, Lehman ran out of pitches in the fifth, and after Hayden scored one run, the teams went to the sixth with the score 5-2.
Unfortunately, Sandpoint pitching could not close the door on the win in the sixth, as Hayden tallied three runs on six hits to tie it up and send the game to extra innings. Haydenís bid for a walk-off win was averted when Jason Ringer caught a Hayden line drive for the third out.
Sandpoint and Hayden failed to score in the seventh inning, thanks to Jacob Aexel making a game-saving catch. With two outs, Haydenís slugger launched a deep fly ball to straight away center field that had the distance to clear the fence. Aexel ranged back and reached high over his head to snag the ball just before it left the park.
The expanding crowd of around 200 spectators got to see the tournamentís first use of a modified Kansas City tie-breaker in the eighth.
Medeiros was placed on second base with no outs to start the inning. Two wild pitches later, Sandpoint owned a 6-5 lead. But Sandpoint was not done. Ringer singled, Day walked and they both scored on a Billstin double. Jorden Tyler continued the offensive momentum with a single, leading Hayden coaches to intentionally walk Lehman in hopes of preventing more damage. Turner made them pay with a two-RBI single, giving Sandpoint a comfortable 10-5 lead going into the bottom of the eighth.
Hayden likewise started the inning with a runner on second base. They quickly brought him home and began circling the bases with a series of walks and singles. Eventually, Hayden had the bases loaded with two outs. The scoreboard showed a narrow 10-9 Sandpoint lead.
Billstin came onto the mound from the outfield in relief to try to use his arm to end the inning. He ended up using his foot. The next Hayden batter scorched a ground ball up the middle that should have scored the winning runs. But the ball struck Billstin in the foot and bounced right to Lehman at shortstop, who flipped the ball to Tyler at second base for game-ending force out.
Then Sandpointís offense exploded against Post Falls.
Sandpoint needed a win against Post Falls to force a three-team tie in the standings with Lewiston and Hayden. Lewiston had beaten Sandpoint, Hayden had beaten Lewiston and Sandpoint had beaten Hayden (and all three had been beaten by Coeur díAlene). The tiebreaker would come down to runs allowed. Sandpoint coaches knew they needed to limit Post Falls to as few runs as possible.
Enter starting pitcher Jorden Tyler. Tyler pitched a near-perfect game: four innings, zero runs, zero hits, six strikeouts and just one walk. Post Falls got one runner to second base and no further.
Sandpointís offense took care of the rest, scoring 22 runs on 21 hits.
The offensive explosion was highlighted by Tyler (2-3, 3 runs), Sage Medeiros (2-3, 3 RBIs), Andrew Lehman (4-5, 4 runs, 2 RBI), Jesse Turner (2-4, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 runs, 3 RBIs), Jacob Aexel (5-5, 4 runs, 4 RBIs), and Dallen Williams (3-4, 1 2B, 5 RBIs). Jason Ringer, Greysen Johnson and Cadin Billstin each contributed a hit, while AJ Kobilansky added two walks and scored twice.
The best-of-three series against Coeur díAlene starts today at 5:30 p.m. Game two is scheduled for Saturday at noon, while game three will be at Sunday at noon. All games will be played at Croffoot Park in Hayden, located at 1347 Lancaster Road.