YAKIMA — Kalama’s ticket into the Class 1A title game wasn’t validated by Nick LaRoy’s brilliance, though he was absolutely unhittable.
Nor did the Chinooks move into Saturday’s 4 p.m. finale against Trico Division rival Rochester on some monstrous home run by Nick’s older brother, Mike, or another 3-for-4 game by versatile Trico MVP Chris Pierce.
In a game dominated by pitching, neither of those things happened.
The Chinooks will play for the state championship because Nick LaRoy pitched an 11-strikeout no-hitter, because Brandon Walker was successful in protecting the plate on an 0-2 count, and because the Naches Valley Rangers weren’t successful in turning a double play when they had to.
Walker’s half-swing double into short right field to lead off the bottom of the seventh set the stage for the Chinooks’ 1-0 semifinal victory Friday at Yakima County Stadium. The game was then decided when Nick LaRoy — with one out and runners on first and second — hit what could have been an inning-ending double-play grounder to second.
The ball was fielded cleanly and thrown to second, but in shortstop Thomas Wilcox’s hurry to turn the double play, the ball popped from his glove and rolled 10 feet away. That allowed Robby Sanders, who had been streaking from second to third on the play, to churn home for the only run the Chinooks (20-3) needed.
The reason that frugal offense was enough, of course, was Kalama’s stellar sophomore on the mound.
“What can you say about something like that — throwing a no-hitter in the state tournament,” Kalama coach Len Hiatt said of LaRoy, who walked five in the gem.
And he did it without his best stuff, too.
“My fastball wasn’t up,” LaRoy said. “I’m usually throwing a couple miles an hour faster. I just had to make due with what I had.”
And he had to deal with getting hit in the pitching arm with a solid third-inning line drive ripped by the Rangers’ pitcher, Lucas Forgey. LaRoy recovered, picked up the ball and easily threw Forgey out, then shook Hiatt off when the coach came out to see if he was all right.
“Naah,” LaRoy responded with a grin. “My sister hits harder than that.”
Walker certainly hits the ball a lot harder than his double that ultimately gave the Chinooks the win. His two-strike cut on Forgey’s high fastball was somewhere between a checked swing and a prayer, but it caught just enough of the ball to loop it into short right field.
“The ball was right here,” Walker said, holding his hand about shoulder high. “He tried to bust me high and inside, and I was just protecting the plate. I knew he was going to try to gas it by me. I probably shouldn’t have swung at it.”
That half-swing blooper was only the second hit the Chinooks managed against Forgey, and the first was just a nubber that almost died on the infield grass and allowed Pierce to leg out an infield single. One intentional walk and one out later, the Chinooks got to the Naches Valley junior the only way they could — a Ranger error.
“He was a stud,” Hiatt said of Forgey. “He was every bit as good as we had heard. I’ve been hearing Forgey, Forgey, Forgey all year long. But these kids of ours are not intimidated.”
Nor should they be intimidated in Saturday’s title game by Rochester, which pounded Freeman 13-2 in Friday’s second semifinal. Kalama beat Rochester three times in four meetings this year.
Naches Valley (22-3-1) will face Freeman (21-2) in the 10 a.m. third-place game.
Chinooks 1, Rangers 0
Naches 000 000 0 — 0 0 2
Kalama 000 000 1 — 1 2 0
Forgey and Gillespie; N. LaRoy and M. LaRoy. W: N. LaRoy. L: Forgey. Highlights: Forgey (NV) 7 IP, 2 H, 4 K, 2 BB; N. LaRoy (K) 7 IP, 0 H, 11 K, 5 BB; Walker (K) 1-3, 2b; C. Pierce (K) 1-3; Sanders (K) 0-1, game-winning run.
1A STATE BASEBALL
At Yakima County Stadium
Kalama 1, Naches Valley 0
Rochester 13, Freeman 2
Naches Valley vs. Freeman, 10 a.m. (third-fourth place)
Kalama vs. Rochester, 4 p.m. (championship)