The players of the Hermiston Little League team expected all week to still be playing at the state tournament Friday night in Pendleton.

They just hoped it would be in the championship game.

But after losing 14-9 to Murrayhill Thursday in the semi-final game, the squad recovered quickly and wound out the season with a 12-1 victory over the Medford Nationals in 3 1/2 innings of play in the consolation game.

It was a finale that earned Hermiston third place in the state and showcased the kind of talent the squad had become feared for over the course of the summer.

The squad batted around in the first two innings, chasing pitcher Christian Bowley in the second and putting on a home-run clinic along the way.

Sean Smith and Garrett Whitsett each hit three-run dingers, and Austin Kopacz lined a shot over the left field fence that took a chunk of scoreboard with it.

"I didn't think it was going to go," Kopacz said about the 15th home run of his Little League career.

It was the first home run of Whitsett's life - a shot that leapt over the scoreboard completely - and Smith's third tater of the tournament.

Alex Campbell threw the complete game for Hermiston, allowing Medford's only run on a solo shot by White to lead off the second inning.

"I was really happy to pitch the last game," Campbell said. "They weren't hitting so good, and that made me even more confident."

"The runs (we scored) took all the stress out of it, and I could throw whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted."

The freedom gave Campbell and edge that Medford found impossible to overcome, as no player as much as rounded third base after the second inning.

It was a game in which Hermiston was able to vent some frustrations from Thursday's loss, coach Jeff Schwirse said, and Kopacz said it was nice to "blow off some steam" in the final outing of the year.

Against Murrayhill the Hermiston offense didn't disappoint as the lineup put together nine runs on 15 hits, but four errors and an equally powerful opposing offense spelled the first loss of the tournament for the team.

Nychal Gritz, Jesus Rosales and Jason Almaguer all hit home runs in the game - Almaguer, like Whitsett, tallying the first of his life.

The team continued the offensive production Friday but cut down the errors, getting sharp defensive play from every position on the field.

It was the last Little League game most of the players will ever experience, and though the Babe Ruth league means larger fields, fast pitching and tougher competition, many are ready for the challenge.

"I like to lead off and steal so I'm excited," Kopacz said. "I probably won't be hitting that many home runs, though."

Smith and Jesus Rosales also said they look forward to trying their skills at Weber Field next spring.

While Schwirse said playing on to the regional tournament was a goal of the team's, finishing the state tournament with a 5-1 record and in third place was a fine way to go out.

He also said after 61 Little League games, many of the players are probably ready to move on to football, or at least take a few weeks off before school starts again.

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FRIDAY R H E

MEDFORD 010 0 - 1 3 1

HERMISTON 561 X - 12 11 1

Christian Bowley, Austin White (2) and Will Cooney. Alex Campbell and Sean Smith. W - Campbell. L - Bowley.

2B - Austin Kopacz (Hermiston); HR - Austin White (Medford); Sean Smith, Garrett Whitsett, Kopacz (Hermiston).

THURSDAY R H E

HERMISTON 240 120 - 9 15 4

MURRAYHILL 441 32X - 14 9 0

Jesus Rosales, Garrett Whitsett (4), Alex Campbell (5), Heath Baldock (5) and Sean Smith. Chandler Whitney, Jacob Zanon (2), Connor Shaw. W - Zanon; L - Rosales

2B - Austin Kopacz (2) (Hermiston) HR - Nychal Gritz, Rosales, Jason Almaguer (Hermiston); Shaw, Whitney, Zack Kiene, Reza Aleaziz.

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