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Nationals fall in championship game

Nationals come back in sixth before losing

by Mike Houser

Appeal Sports Writer

GARDNERVILLE ” One day after his Carson National team pulled out a dramatic 5-4 win over Carson American in the bottom of the sixth inning, coach Jim Blueberg had the feeling that it was deja vu all over again.

After falling behind 7-2 to Washoe and its radar-accurate pitcher Logan Harger, Carson National made a determined run in the bottom of the sixth inning in the championship game of the 11-12 year-old Little League Hooligans tournament Thursday at Aspen Park. But even though the Nationals would get the tying run to the plate, it was Washoe that would prevail, taking a 7-4 victory.

“It’s kind of a somber feeling after (Wednesday’s) win,” Blueberg said. “I thought we’d catch lightning in the bottle twice. We just about did.”

With two out, a five-run cushion and ahead 1-2 on his 85th pitch ” his limit under Little League rules ” Harger surrendered only his third hit of the game ” a single ” to Carson Nationals shortstop T.J. Thomsen before leaving the game with a seemingly safe lead.

But Nationals starter Nevin Elliot changed all of that when he hit the first pitch he saw off reliever Caz Tomaszewski over the left-centerfield wall to make it 7-4.

Washoe’s Andy Calingheart entered the game and walked Evan Carlson and surrendered a single to second baseman Kyle Steele as Alex Borgman came to the plate. Carlson and Steele advanced a base on a passed ball, but Calingheart shut the door on the Nationals by striking out Borgman and hand the game to Washoe, which went 7-0 in the season-ending tournament.

“They battled. They never quit,” Blueberg said of Carson National, which finished its season 5-2. “We had a chance, with the tying run at the plate. And (Borgman) can hit it out. We go from 7-2 in the last inning and have a chance to tie it ” that shows you what a group of kids we had here. We came up a little short.”

After centerfielder Anthony Damonte led off the game with a home run to dead center, the Nationals rallied to tie it in the second when Carlson (who walked) came home on a Borgman grounder.

A two-error inning got the Nationals into trouble in the fourth, when Washoe added a pair of runs. Elliot hit Damonte with a pitch with the bases loaded and then walked Tomaszewski to make it 3-1.

The Nationals closed to 3-2 in the bottom of the inning when Thomsen, who turned a single into a three-bagger on a Washoe fielding error in center, raced home on an Elliot groundout to first.

Thomsen was 2-for-3.

Washoe first baseman Drayson Christensen hit a three-run double and Calingheart added an RBI single in the sixth to lend a helping offensive hand to Harger, who struck out five and walked two.

“That kid is talented,” Blueberg said of Harger, who was also on target with a celebratory lunch box of ice cubes and later a bottle of water to the face of his coach, Tom Rafferty. “He threw hard, had command ” the only way to beat that is to have a break. They just had a couple more breaks than we did. Nevin pitched great. He deserved a better fate.”

Elliot lasted five-plus innings, giving up three runs (one earned), six hits and a walk. He struck out four and hit one batter. Josiah Pongasi gave up four runs and three hits in one inning of relief.

“(Harger) pitched a helluva game,” Rafferty said. “(The Nationals) were a good hitting team and he really shut them down for six innings. The kids were absolutely phenomenal. To have a team where you struggle every game who’s starting and who’s substituting ” it’s just a milestone.”

Rafferty said Christensen’s three-run double sealed the deal.

“Drayson was 4-for-4, with two home runs, a double and single on Thursday,” Rafferty said. “That double was clutch. I think he had 17 RBI in seven games.”

And, as it turned out for Carson National, that was three RBI too many.