JAMESTOWN — Nothing came easy for Portland, Oregon at this week’s Babe Ruth 13-15 World Series.
It was no surprise that the Pacific Northwest Region champions fell behind early in the championship game.
It was even less of a surprise that they came back to win.
Silas Combs hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning and combined with two other Portland pitchers to scatter seven hits en route to a 6-4 victory over Norwalk, Connecticut in the title game Saturday afternoon at Diethrick Park.
“There was something different about it when we got these guys together after high school ball in the middle of May. We played in quite a few tournaments and it felt like something was different, something special,” Portland manager Craig Combs said postgame. “We talked about it along the way: if we stay together, develop and play good baseball, we’ll go places.”
A group of boys that started playing together at 7 and 8 years old in Cal Ripken League didn’t get down when they fell behind 2-0 in the bottom of the second inning.
They used it as a wake-up call.
Leadoff hitter Carson Andyke was hit by a pitch with one out in the top of the third inning and Brave Johnson — his team’s Ron Tellefsen Player of the Game — followed with an infield single. James Gill III — the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player — then hit a high fly ball down the left-field line that fell for a single and allowed Andyke to score his team’s first run of the game from second base.
“No matter how it is, if he can get on base, we have a chance,” Combs said of Andyke. “He’s a good base runner and gives us a lot of opportunities to score runs.”
After Gill stole second uncontested, Norwalk pulled its infield in and Combs hit a hard line drive up the middle for a two-run single to give his team a 3-2 lead.
“That was huge,” said Combs, Silas’ father. “That was kind of what got us going and got our offense picked up.”
It was a lead Portland would never relinquish.
Roscoe Mithoefer led off the top of the fourth inning with a fly ball to right field that dropped for an error and Peter Chan walked with one out. Andyke then hit an RBI single to center field and moved up to second as Chan went to third on a high throw to the plate. After a strikeout, Gill was intentionally walked to load the bases. The move backfired when Norwalk starter Jacob Fields walked Combs to force in another run.
“Our offense really picked things up in the last two games,” Craig Combs said. “We put some offense on the board, which takes a lot of pressure off everybody else.”
The New England Region champions then turned to Antonio Marchetti in relief, but he hit Tino Flores — the tournament’s batting champion — with a pitch to plate Portland’s sixth run.
Combs started on the mound and allowed two runs — RBI singles by Norwalk’s Dylan Izzi and Aidan Brehm in the second inning — on four hits while striking out two.
“It was just our rotation,” Combs said of the decision to start his son. “We have four guys who can go out and start a game for us and he was the next guy up. (Silas) had a few good days of rest.”
Chan came on in relief in the fourth inning for Portland and allowed a leadoff double to Jaxon Ermo, but stranded him at third base with a groundout, a strikeout and a flyout. Chan then benefited from a double play in the fifth inning before running into trouble in his final inning.
“It is not uncommon that we’ll go with something like that,” Combs said, “because Peter has a different look, throws the ball at different speeds and different angles.”
Fields — Norwalk’s Ron Tellefsen Player of the Game — led off the sixth inning with a single and went to second when Ermo reached on a one-out error. David Harry then walked to load the bases, prompting a mound visit from Combs. Portland decided to stick with Chan and he got out of the inning with a sacrifice fly from Izzi and a pop-up.
“We had some insurance runs so we had a little cushion,” Combs said. “It was just to gather Peter and make sure he was on task — throw strikes so the defense can get the outs.”
Gill came on for the save in the seventh and after a strikeout, Norwalk’s Matt Rinaldi reached on an error. Matt Weiss then hit a grounder to the middle of the infield that could’ve been a tournament-ending double play, but the relay throw was wide of first to send Weiss to second with two outs. Fields hit an RBI single, but Gill got the final out on a pop-up, which set off a wild celebration on the middle of the infield.
“He was ready for the moment. … He wanted the ball,” Combs said of Gill. “When you have a player like that and put him in a certain spot … they are ready. … Good things happen.”
NOTES: Flores, Ermo and Norwalk’s Matt Weiss were joined on the All-World Series Team by Eau Claire, Wisconsin’s Austin McGraw and Gavin Thompson; Greenville, North Carolina’s Josh Roberson; Jamestown’s Blake Herman; Torrance, California’s Nori Mori and Tadashi Tiomico; and Moorhead, Minnesota’s Carson Heinsch. … Gill and Fields were joined on the All-Defensive Team by Beekman, New York’s Casey Lowndes and Christian Anderson; Jamestown’s Ashton Putney and Branston Lindquist; Torrance’s Matthew Gonzalez; Opp, Alabama’s Cash Harrell; Broomall Newtown, Pennsylvania’s Jack Quinn; and Eau Claire’s Tyler Barrows.