Hanford Flames win NW Regional opener at American Legion Tourney - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Hanford Flames win NW Regional opener at American Legion Tournament

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From Oliver Pierce

EUGENE, OR. — Colin Serkowski, who has completed his freshman year as a pitcher on the roster at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, pitched into the eighth inning as the Hanford Flames defeated the Stayton Canyon Crushers, 9-3, Thursday evening in the opening round of the American Legion Pacific Northwest Regional baseball tournament at Swede Johnson Stadium.

The slender right-hander scattered seven hits and allowed only two earned runs, struck out seven, walked two and hit four batters. Staked to leads  of 3-0, 4-1 and 7-1, Serkowski threw 105 pitches, 66 for strikes, and his teammates supported him with 13 hits. Lead-off batter Finn McMichael led the way with three hits, and three other Richland players had two hits each.

"He's a tough kid, and once he gets the lead and has it going, we can get some runs for him," Flames coach Nat Roe said. "One thing I was a little disappointed, to be honest with you, our defense let us down more than it has (with three errors). We have pretty high standards on defense and we made a couple of bad plays. And our offense let that guy off the hook a little bit, but for the most part our guys are swinging like we've been swinging for the last month or so. ...

"We're a pretty confident group, we like our guys, so we knew if we could get some runs on the board early that would get us off and running. We feed off each other, we're a pretty tight club, and once our offense gets going, that's the key for us."

Richland  (40-19) plays the Billings Royals in a second-round game at 5 p.m. Friday; Stayton (35-13) plays Cheyenne Post 6 in an elimination game at 10 a.m. Friday.

The Washington state champions took advantage of wildness by Stayton left-hander Alex Emerson to take a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. A lead-off single by left-fielder McMichael was followed by a ground-out, a pair of walks, an infield single off Emerson by catcher Jake Browne to score the first run and bases-loaded walks to Brady Heid and Jacob Anderson to force in two more.

Emerson threw 42 first-inning pitches as the Flames sent nine batters to the plate and left the bases loaded.

The Oregon State champions got on the scoreboard with an unearned run in the third, when catcher Hunter Gates drew a walk, took third on an errant pick-off throw by Colin Serkowski and scored on Emerson's soft single to right field.

The Flames wasted no time responding, as Browne, of Walla Walla Community College,  hit Emerson's first pitch of the bottom of the third over the left field fence for a home run that made the score 4-1. 

In the fourth inning, the Flames drove Emerson from the game with three runs for a 7-1 advantage. With one out, McMichael got his third straight single, reached third on a wild pitch and scored on Serkowski's single. Trevor Jones walked, Ryan Neal singled to score Serkowski, Browne walked to load the bases again, and Heid got his second RBI walk of the game. Mason Fessler moved to the mound from third base and induced Ryan Colson to ground into an inning-ending double play.

Emerson allowed seven runs on eight hits and walked seven in 3.1 innings.

The Crushers got a run back in the fifth when Conner Gilham was hit by a pitch, Gates reached on an error, and they were advanced to third and second on a wild pitch. Chris Burger's infield single scored Gilham to make the score 7-2.

Stayton made it 7-3 with a run in the seventh, as Gates and Burger singled, and Emerson followed with an RBI single to right. However, the Crushers couldn't add more, as Fessler hit a hard liner to third baseman Anthony Pocaro that was turned into an unassisted inning ending double play. 

The Flames scored an unearned run off Fessler in the seventh, as a two-out double buy Pocaro scored Anderson, who had reached second on a fielder's choice and a throwing error by second baseman Burger.

Serkowski pitched into the eighth inning, when he gave up a walk and a single and, leading 8-3, was replaced by Nate Mitchell, a rising senior at Hanford High School, who induced a force out and a 5-4-3 double play to end the threat.

Richland scored made it 9-3 in the eighth on a double to right by Jones and Neal's second RBI of the game, a single to left.