BURLINGTON — The Mount Riverdogs stumbled in their previous meeting against the Burlington Sox at the American Legion AA District Tournament.
On Monday, they regained their balance and returned to their winning ways, claiming the district title by defeating the Sox 6-3.
“It was a big win for us,” said Mount Vernon right fielder Sam Nelson, named the tournament’s MVP. “Our freshmen pitchers came up clutch. This win is a big confidence boost heading into state. This is exactly where we expected to be.”
Both Mount Vernon and Burlington, along with Wilder of Port Angeles, Sedro-Woolley and Lynden advance to the state tournament, which begins Saturday at Yakima’s Parker Field and Davis High School.
The Riverdogs will enter the tournament as a top seed, while the Sox will be the No. 2 seed. Sedro-Woolley will go as the No. 4 seed. If any of those teams are to win the state tournament title, it will take six days of winning baseball.
“It was a lot of baseball,” Mount Vernon coach Tony Wolden said of the district tournament. “And there is still more to be played. Now we are off to state as a No. 1 seed, putting ourselves in the best possible position for the tournament.”
Mount Vernon was in the midst of a winning streak before Burlington beat it Sunday afternoon, setting up Monday’s championship game.
“They (Burlington) kicked us in the teeth,” Wolden said. “We had an eight-game winning streak going into that game, so I guess we were due for a clunker.”
It looked like the Riverdogs were headed for a losing streak early in the championship game as Burlington jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third inning. Two walks, an error, and singles by Colby Arnold and Nolan White plated the runs.
Mount Vernon would rally in the late innings, scoring three in the fifth and another three in the sixth to secure the win.
In the fifth inning, Steven Gard, Vynce Rodriguez and Zach Klinger all singled and came around to score, aided by errors, wild pitches and key hits — like the single by Cody Shackleton that brought home Rodriguez.
In the sixth, it was a triple off the fence in left-center field by catcher Cole Williams sparking another Mount Vernon barrage. Kyle Wolden’s shot up the middle scored Williams. A throwing error allowed Wolden to cross home plate and Klinger to reach first. A double by Shackleton scored the Riverdogs’ sixth run in the form of Klinger.
“This team is gritty,” Mount Vernon second baseman Kyle Wolden said. “That’s what sets this team apart. We all know we have each other’s backs.”
Mount Vernon tallied 10 hits.
Burlington made it interesting, loading the bases in the top of the seventh inning, but the Sox managed to score just one run as Arnold raced to first with an infield single. Eventually winding up at third, he was walked home for Burlington’s final run.
“We have gotten a lot better since the start of the season,” Nelson said. “A lot better. We’ve really grown as a team.”
A bases loaded double play by the Riverdogs ended the game and gave them the title.
“Winning that game says a lot about our guys,” Tony Wolden said. “They bounced back and played tough.”