MOSES LAKE — It’s never good watching the out-towners hoist the championship trophy on your mound, dancing around making all that noise. But the good news is, the Chiefs (17-4) will live to see another day.
Wenatchee (15-7) scored six runs on seven hits in the top half of the fifth inning and snapped the Chiefs’ five-game winning streak with a 9-5 decision to win the 4A District 6 championship on Saturday at Larson Playfield.
It was just the second loss in the past 17 games for the young Chiefs, who have six starters that were either on the junior varsity or the freshmen team last season. Moses Lake won 17-3 the last time the two played on April 27. But on Saturday, it was the Panthers erasing an early 4-1 Moses Lake lead to win the championship.
“I thought we competed well and kept our composure. But the breaks didn’t go our way and that’s baseball,” first-year Moses Lake manager Donnie Lindgren said. “Today shows we really need to concentrate on our fundamentals. We had a couple of little mistakes there and it cost us.”
Vance Alvarado pitched into the fifth inning, striking out three and scattering five hits. But the junior right-hander walked the lead-off hitter to open the fifth. The Chiefs, who went into the game having won 15 of their last 16, made one of those fundamental errors when they didn’t cover first base on a bunt situation, giving the Panthers runners at first and second. A single here, another run there and Wenatchee worked its way back into it when all the momentum had been riding with the Chiefs.
“I think it was almost too easy for them at times this season, and now it’s back to work,” said Lindgren, whose team returns to the 4A state tournament for the first time since 2015. “Now they know every little thing is important.”
It’s not like Moses Lake gave anything away. Wenatchee, which beat West Valley 8-1 in the semifinals earlier in the day, came into Larson Playfield and punched the Big Nine leaders in the mouth. The Panthers were the last to beat the Chiefs on April 24, so Saturday’s championship bout was a match-up of the two best teams in the conference.
“We don’t like to lose, so this lights a fire under our butt,” said catcher Cody Goodwin, who drove in a run in the Chiefs’ three-run first inning. “We lost concentration, but it’s nothing big. I think we can overcome it and we’ll come back ready to play on Saturday.”
Zack Valdez had three hits, including a double to drive in a run. Dax Lindgren went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Gabe Passey doubled and Dominic Signorelli scored twice for the Chiefs, who just couldn’t get out of the fifth inning with minimal damage. The Panthers chased Alvarado, then reliever Austin Valdez. They scored a couple of insurance runs in the sixth and took a five-run into the Chiefs’ final at-bat.
“No one on this team has played in the 4A state tournament, but we’ve played at that level in the summer. So we’ll practice hard this week and get ready to play on Saturday,” Vance Alvarado said. “This is going to motivate us even more.”
Moses Lake scored one in the seventh on a Valdez RBI single, but the two-out rally stalled and they will go into the Round of 16 as the No. 2 seed from District 6.
The Chiefs will play Mead in the 1 p.m. game at University High School in Spokane on Saturday.
Wenatchee 0 1 0 0 6 2 0 - 9 11 2
Moses Lake 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 - 5 8 1
Moses Lake hits: Zack Valdez (3-for-4), Dax Lindgren 2-4. 2B - Gabe Passey, Zack Valdez. RBI - Cody Goodwin, Dax Lindgren, Zack Valdez (2)