The Pepsi Bottlecaps didn’t go down quietly in their Class A American Legion baseball state tournament game with North Coos on Tuesday.
Pepsi was eliminated from the tournament with a 13-8 loss at Bill Gray Stadium at Legion Field, but the Bottlecaps avoided the 10-run rule by trimming a 13-2 deficit with a late rally.
“We were down 13-2 going into the fifth and our kids could’ve easily rolled over, but they battled and extended the game,” Pepsi coach Justin O’Byrne said. “We gave ourselves a fighting chance going into the seventh. That’s a testament to the kids, a testament to the growth they’ve made over the course of the season.”
The Bottlecaps finished 15-16 overall, including 2-2 in the state tournament.
North Coos (27-6), the defending state champion, entered Tuesday’s contest knowing it had a berth in the tournament championship game — win or lose. The Waterfront, 4-0 in the tournament, played Alpenrose Dairy of Portland at 10 a.m. Wednesday for the title.
Alpenrose Dairy eliminated La Grande 5-3 in the early game Tuesday. Alpenrose needs to beat North Coos twice; a second game, if necessary, was scheduled to start at 1 p.m.
Both those teams will advance to the regional tournament in Cody, Wyoming.
The Waterfront put Pepsi in a hole right off the bat, scoring five runs in the top of the first inning. North Coos sent 11 batters to the plate, and capitalized on four hits, two walks, one hit batter and one Pepsi error.
“We’re happy to get the win,” North Coos coach Brad Horning said. “Pepsi is always going to be a team that rallies back. The game kind of went wrong for them early. You eliminate that first inning, and we probably have a tie game going into the seventh.
“They battled really well and we did a good job of filtering through — getting some bases on balls and swinging the bat.”
Pepsi starter Nathan Wayman didn’t get out of the first inning, getting relieved by Caden Smith after facing eight batters and getting only one out.
Ian Spalding had an RBI single and Bridger Holmes added a two-run single for North Coos in the inning. Spalding scored on a wild pitch and an error by Pepsi shortstop Sebastian Watson brought home the fifth run.
“Obviously we’d like to have that first inning back,” O’Byrne said, “but give credit to North Coos. They’re a very good baseball team. They put the ball in play, took advantage of our bases on balls and a couple of mistakes.
“Our plan was to go with Nathan Wayman. We were hoping to get a quality start out of him and have him go as deep as possible, but we had to re-evaluate once they got down through the lineup once. We didn’t want the ballgame to get out of control.”
Grant Berry took over on the mound for Smith in the fifth and pitched the rest of the way, keeping the Waterfront off the scoreboard the last two innings.
“Caden (Smith) did a good job for us and kept us in the game,” O’Byrne said. “If we make a couple of plays (defensively) it’s probably a different score as well. I thought Grant (Berry) did a fantastic job coming in.”
The Bottlecaps got two runs back in the second. Jericho Paul knocked in a run on a groundout and Garrett Schulze scored on a wild pitch.
But North Coos scored four times each in the fourth and fifth innings to put Pepsi on the brink.
Jacob Chaney, Brendon Roberts and Braydon Snoddy delivered run-scoring hits as the Waterfront hiked their advantage to 9-2 in the fourth.
Pepsi fought its way back in the fifth with four runs off Chaney, who relieved AJ Stoltey. Berry drew a bases-loaded walk, Dakota Percell knocked in a run with a single and N.C. second baseman Brylee Anderson misplayed a Knox Hubbard groundball which scored two more.
Percell added a two-run double in the sixth to make it a five-run game.
Jake Simmons and Roberts each led North Coos with three hits. Tyler Thornton, Spalding, Holmes and Jared Northrop each had two safeties.
Percell, Blake Watson and Smith all stroked two hits for the ‘Caps.
O’Byrne noted Pepsi finished the season strong after struggling in the first half.
“Our message to the kids was when you take a step back and look at it, there were three teams left when this game started at 4 o’clock,” he said. “We were one of them. If you would’ve told me this on June 24 — when we were playing over at North Coos (in league) and saw some things that weren’t very good — and then today we’re playing in the (state) semifinals against North Coos, I would’ve taken it.
“The kids bought in along the way. They’re disappointed right now, and it’s fine to be disappointed because that means it means something to you. At the same time when they leave here, there were a whole bunch of people in the crowd who stood up and gave the kids a round of applause — well-deserved on their part. For parents and longtime supporters of Roseburg baseball, that says a lot about their character.”
N. Coos 500 440 0 — 13 17 2
Pepsi 020 042 0 — 8 7 2
Stoltey, Chaney (5) and Spalding; Wayman, Smith (1), Berry (5) and Paul, Hubbard (5). WP — Stoltey. LP — Wayman. 2B — Simmons 2 (NC), Roberts 2 (NC), Chaney (NC), Percell (P).