SAN BERNARDINO, Calif — The Coeur d’Alene Little League team played in the Northwest Region Little League tournament as if they were prepared for just about anything.
They weren’t prepared for absolutely everything.
Henry Mhoon stole home with two outs in the top of the sixth to tie the game and Gavin Price scored on an error to give Sprague Little League of Salem, Ore., a 5-4 victory over Coeur d’Alene in the Northwest Regional championship game at Al Houghton Stadium on Saturday.
Any loss in a regional final is difficult to take, but the circumstances were particularly heart-breaking.
Coeur d’Alene center fielder Lars Bazler doubled to left field to start the bottom of the fifth. Bazler moved to third on an infield single by catcher Travis Usdrowski. Cason Miller bunted for a single, but it was a safety squeeze to load the bases with no outs. Sprague pitcher Gavin Price struck out Kyle Johnson for the first out, and Tyler Voorhees hit into a fielder’s choice.
Miller was forced at second base but Bazler scored to give Coeur d’Alene a 4-3 advantage in the fifth. They needed three outs to make their second consecutive trip to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
Now the heart-breaking part.
Zach Bell, who relieved in the fourth inning, retired catcher Riley Wilson on a ground out to third. Henry Mhoon doubled to center. His brother Andrew Mhoon was retired on a grounder to Bell.
Riley Mhoon advanced to third and it seemed the play was over.
The play wasn’t over.
After returning the ball to the pitcher, everything appeared to stop. In major league games you see on television, usually time is called as the next batter comes to the plate and the umpire puts a new ball in play.
Riley Mhoon didn’t stop. He raced home and beat the throw to the plate for a stolen base.
Mhoon’s gamble was exceptionally risky. If he had been thrown out, it would have been the third out of the inning and Coeur d’Alene would have won the game and a second-straight trip to the Little League World Series.
“My dad (Henry Mhoon Sr.) told me to do it,” the younger Mhoon said, adding that he had stolen home that way a number of times this year. “It was never a question.”
Price reached second on an error in right field. After a walk to Spencer Shortis, Price scored on an error by the pitcher on a ball hit by Cemeron VanKempen. Shortis advanced to third, but Bazler recovered the ball which had gone down the right-field foul line.
VanKempen turned and attempted to advance to second. Bazler ran at him while checking to see if Shortis would try to score. Shortis stopped and Bazler threw to shortstop to retire VanKempen at second base. That was the third out of the inning. Shortis raced home but the put out at second occurred before he slid home.
Did Sprague Little League manager Travis Price’s heart stop during Moohn’s run to home plate?
“I didn’t see it,” Price said. “He has good speed so he has permission to do that. You can’t be afraid to fail.”
Coeur d’Alene declined comment following the game. Players from the losing team are also not made available following games.
Coeur d’Alene scored single runs in the first and the second inning. Bazler hit a one-out single to left and moved to second on Travis Usdrowski’s infield single.
Cason Miller forced Usdrowski at second. With Kyle Johnson batting, Miller attempted to steal second hoping to distract the defense and allow Bazler to score.
Bazler raced home and was safe, but Miller was caught between first and second. After running back toward first when throw went to second base, Miller went back toward second and was thrown out.
Coeur d’Alene added another run in the next hitting, as Johnson and Tyler Voorhees hit back-to-back singles. Bell scored Johnson on a double with one out.
The fourth inning where Sprague scored three runs without a base hit may cause the Coeur d’Alene coaching staff to lose sleep over the next week.
Sprague was required by Little League participation rules to use four pinch-hitters during the inning. The first three batters walked and the next batter, Aedan Saele, reached on an error.
Two more batters walked during the inning, and Sprague took a 3-2 lead. Coeur d’Alene tied the game in the bottom of the fourth when pinch-hitter Mark Holeck scored on an errant throw.
Salem will open at the Little League World Series against the Mid-Atlantic champion Elizbeth, N.J., on Friday at 5 p.m.
Salem 000 302 — 5 5 2
Coeur d’Alene 110 110 — 4 9 4
Avery Lohrman, Gavin Price (2) and Riley Wilson; Cason Miller, Zach Bell (4) and Travis Usdrowski.
HITS: Salem — Wilson, H. Mhoon, Shortis, VanKempen, Lohrman. Cd’A — Bazler 2, Usdrowski 2, Miller, Johnson, Voorhees, Bell, Kramer. 2B — H. Mhoon, Wilson, Bell, Bazler.