KENNEWICK - Things didn't start off too well for the Kennewick American All-Stars on Sunday at Kennewick American Youth Baseball Complex.
But they ended just fine for the exuberant group of 12-year-olds, who earned a trip to the Cal Ripken World Series in Aberdeen, Md., on Aug. 12 with a 6-4 win over Willamette Valley in the regional Cal Ripken 12U 70-foot majors regional championship.
Trailing 4-0 after two innings, KA tied the score in the bottom of the third on Brycen Kelly's three-run home run.
The longball tied it, but Kennewick pulled ahead in the fourth using a bit of smallball.
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"We've been working on bunting for weeks, but we've had a hard time getting them down," said KA coach Jeff Plew.
Not this time. A.J. Jacobson laid down a good one, and Willamette Valley threw the ball wide of second base in an attempt to force the runner. With two on and nobody out, Tracer Bjorge dropped another solid bunt, moving the runners to second and third.
From there, Bryce Grigg hit an RBI single and Blake Loftus drove in Jacobson with an infield grounder to put Kennewick up 6-4.
"We got two perfect bunts down after a summer of not succeeding," Plew said. "I'm not sure if it was the pressure, but whatever it was, it worked."
Plew said this team started to gel heading into the state tournament and has excelled behind a strong supporting crew of coaches and parents that keeps them moving forward.
"When you get everybody pulling in the same direction, you see good things happen," Plew said. "That's exactly what sports is all about -- believing in one another."
Kennewick American also made the trip to the Cal Ripken World Series in 2006 and 2008, when the team finished second.
Willamette Valley 301 000 0 — 4 5 3
Kennewick American 004 200 0 — 6 6 1
Kade Bake, Dylan Douglee (3), Sam Olson (4) and Andrew Jabaluski; Dillon Plew, Brycen Kelly (3), Plew (6) and Hunter Spiva.
Highlights—Bryce Grigg (K) 2x2, R; Blake Loftus (K) R, RBI; Plew (K) R; Kelly (K) HR, 3 RBI; Sam Olson (WV) 2x3, 2B, 2 R.