The Curry Coastal Pilot

Four 12-year-old Brookings boys joined forces with Team Ashland to win the championship at the 2012 Yogurt Hut Memorial Day Baseball Tournament for the 12 and Under division during the Memorial Day weekend.

Fourteen teams from Washington, Oregon and California played games at the US Cellular fields in Medford Oregon from Friday through Monday that holiday weekend.

Brookings' Joe Johnson, Brandon Letendre, Noah James, and Cody Testa played on Team Ashland with six Ashland boys. They were invited to play for the team by Coach Sean Gallagher.

Johnson first played in a tournament with Team Ashland in October 2011. After that he began training with Gallagher for three hours every Sunday from November through March. He worked with Gallagher to perfect his pitching and hitting mechanics and to practice the art of playing the position of catcher. He has become a highly skilled player behind the dish thanks to his hard work and dedication to the instruction of Gallagher.

Gallagher had conducted baseball skills training in Brookings in order to look at the baseball talent we had over here. He liked what he saw.

In March 2012 Team Ashland played another tournament at US Cellular and Gallagher needed a few players. So, Brandon Letendre and Noah James joined the team. He worked with Brandon and Noah in pitching and hitting. Team Ashland performed well in that tournament, eventually taking second place to Jaha Baseball out of the Portland area.

For the Memorial Day Tournament, Johnson, Letendre, James and Testa met Friday for three hours of practice with the team and began playing games on Saturday afternoon. The boys played five games total to win the championship.

The first three games were pool play and the team finished with three wins and no losses to become the number 1 seed for their pool. There were four pools. All the number 1 teams entered bracket play against one another for the championship. All other teams were placed in lower brackets for consolation games.

Over the course of the tournament Team Ashland scored 44 runs. The Brookings boys were responsible for 40 of the 44 runs in one way or another. They crossed the plate to produce 24 of those runs. They also were responsible for 16 additional runs batted in beyond the number of times they personally crossed the plate. The boys simply hit the ball or found another way to get on base when they needed to score runs.

They all performed well with the bat. Letendre hit two homeruns with a .470 batting average and a .500 on base percentage. James hit .466 with an on base percentage of .500. Johnson lost a triple on a balk call by the field umpire but still hit .333 with a .444 OBP. Testa hit .308 with an OBP of .308 and he managed a couple of key hits at very important moments to plate some needed runs.

On the flip side, Team Ashland only gave up 17 runs to the five other teams they played. Their defense was very solid. Letendre, James and Johnson all pitched. In eight innings pitched, Johnson had 13 strikeouts, gave up four hits and walked six. He managed to pick off two base runners leading off at first base with a smooth lefty move. James gave up three hits and had two strikeouts over 1 and 2/3 frames. Brandon Letendre pitched well with six strikeouts, two hits and one walk over 3 and 2/3 innings pitched.

All the boys made nice defensive plays in the field. Testa looked great at third base, showing off his strong arm on plays made on ground balls. James was solid at shortstop with several fine defensive gems. Letendre anchored the outfield at center. He threw a laser from center to gun down a runner tagging from third in a failed attempt to score.

Team Ashland was behind on the scoreboard only once. They gave up the lead to the Bulldog Baseball Academy out of Vancouver Washington in the fourth inning of game four. Team Ashland began the top of the sixth and final inning down six to three. They scored 10 runs in the top of the sixth, batting through the order one and a half times. All four of the boys were on base and scored at least once that inning. Johnson and Letendre were on base and scored twice that inning. Letendre was the final run scored that inning after tripling.

There was a righty on the mound who decided to pitch from the windup. Gallagher had worked with the boys in practice on stealing home. He saw the opportunity and sent Brandon when the pitcher started his windup. Letendre slid in to home a split second before the ball reached the catcher. The team went wild with excitement.

The Bulldogs started off the next inning by putting the first runner on base. He attempted to steal second base but Johnson fired a bullet to James to send that runner to the bench. The last two batters were taken care of by the defense and that sent them to the championship game. They never trailed again.

Gallagher sent the trophy home with the boys after telling them that they contributed so much and deserved to take it back to Brookings. The boys will continue to play with Team Ashland. Johnson also plays middle school baseball for Gallagher in Medford for St. Mary's Middle School. He is gaining valuable baseball experience at the next level on the full size field.