Garrett Whitsett stepped up to the plate against Medford in the second inning Friday, knowing it was going to be his last at-bat on a Little League field.

He knew it was the Hermiston team's final Little League game together, and no matter what he did with his last swings the best he and his friends could finish was third at the state tournament in Pendleton.

But even with a title out of reach, the final innings fading fast and the season almost over, Whitsett exemplified Hermiston's attitude with his final plate appearance.

Though known as a free swinger, he wisely laid off a two-strike pitch high in the zone. The next pitch came in a bit lower and Whitsett unloaded, sending the ball over the scoreboard in left field for the first home run of his Little League career.

It turned out to be a drop in the bucket of a 12-1 Hermiston win, but as Whitsett rounded first he couldn't contain the joy he felt.

"I couldn't stop smiling," he said.

Whitsett could have taken his final Little League swing at the high pitch, returned the dugout and been satisfied with the way the season wrapped up.

Instead he put what he had learned into practice, belted a blast he'll remember for the rest of his life, and put yet another exclamation point on an amazing season.

And it was the same for every Hermiston player Friday.

In the first two innings the team batted around the lineup, getting everyone on the roster at least one at-bat.

Alex Campbell took the mound and dominated the opposition, throwing his best stuff with confidence and ferocity.

The defense played all four innings as if they were in a one-run championship game, continuing to concentrate even as the score ballooned out of control.

From Sean Smith throwing out a would-be base stealer in the first inning to Jesus Rosales scooping up the final ground ball in the fourth and tossing it to first base, it was a complete effort.

And all the while the looks on the players' faces alternated between competitive determination and light-hearted smiles, because it was so much more than a consolation game for the team.

It was a chance for redemption after Thursday night's loss.

It was a last hurrah from a team who was among the absolute best the state had to offer.

It was a showcase for boys who poured their summers into the sport of baseball.

And when all was said and done, every Hermiston player walked off the field with a smile on his face, with parents, grandparents, siblings and friends congratulating them on a game well played.

There was no shame or embarrassment with a third-place medal.

There was only the contentment of a 61-game season that could have hardly gone any better.

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