(Update: Bend North loses 3-2 to Washington in title game)
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KTVZ) – The Bend-North All-Stars got as close as you can get to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., without actually boarding a plane, losing to Washington 3-2 in seven innings in the NorthWest Regional championship game Thursday evening.
Bend North had scored first, taking a 2-0 lead in the third inning after a bases-loaded walk and run-scoring single. But the Washington team got its own RBI single in the bottom of the third, making it 2-1, followed by a solo homer in the bottom of the sixth that tied the game, and after some stellar playing by Bend North, the game went into extra innings.
In the bottom of the seventh, Washington hit a ball down the third base line and though the third-base umpire called it foul, causing some confusion and a delay by the Bend defenders, Washington’s runner was waved around and back to home, with the winning run. A few minutes later, the umpires ruled it was, indeed, fair – and that was it.
Earlier Thursday, Brett Hartlaub, the manager for the 12s Bend North All Stars, said his team relished the opportunity to play for a trip to the World Series.
“We're having a lot of fun -- it's an amazing experience,” Hartlaub said.
Hartlaub and the rest of the 12s Bend North All Stars Baseball team have been in San Bernardino for almost a week, competing in the NorthWest Regional Finals.
“What we’ve already experienced is a dream in itself, to even get this far was well beyond what … it was always our goal, but at the same time, goals and expectations can be a little bit different,” Hartlaub said. “We are feeling really really good.”
The state champion team beat Idaho (Lewiston) in a 4-3 come-from-behind win on Wednesday.
“We were down 3-1, and just started chipping away, a couple guys behind me with some real key hits and got it done,” Hartlaub said
The win put them in the championship game, a rematch against rival Washington (Bonney Lake), who beat Bend 10-1 in the first game of the tournament.
“We weren’t surprised when we opened up with them, and were not surprised that’s who we have to close out to get to the next level,” Hartlaub said of the Washington team.
Thursday's starting pitcher, Josh Stefano, knows his team is special.
“Just the chemistry, I guess,” Stefano said. “This is like the best team I’ve ever had in awhile.”
Regardless of the result, Coach Hartlaub said before the game that he’s immensely proud of his team.
‘I just at times I still have that wake up here every morning going wow, we're at the west coast regional -- we really did this, we really are state champions, we really do have a shot at the little league world series and, it's been a lot of that,” Hartlaub said. “Can’t put into words how proud I am of these boys.”