Jul 21, 2013 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorRiverton pitcher Jaren Draper struck out a Cody batter with the bases loaded for the final out to lock up his squads thrilling 4-3 victory in the 11-and 12-year-old Little League district baseball tournament title Saturday.
Cody and Riverton entered the district tournament at the Ron Saban Baseball Complex in Riverton as the overwhelming favorites to battle each for the No. 1 seed for state.
The win qualified Riverton for the state tournament next week in Laramie.
Cody had to play Lander Saturday night in the final game of the double-elimination district tournament.
"I was trying not to throw a passed ball or bean him," Draper said. "I was kind of nervous. I was trying to win the game then. I didn't want to bat again."
Teammate Chace Garcia lifted the winning pitcher up in the air after the final out was recorded.
"Cody is a very good team," Riverton manager Scott Fabricus said. "You can see how well-coached they are. Cody doesn't beat themselves. They are just tough. It was a good game."
Lander edged Powell 3-2 Saturday afternoon in seven innings. Lander eliminated Bridger Valley 8-5 on Friday night.
Cody smashed Lander 28-5 on Wednesday in the first day of the tournament.
The winner of the Lander-Cody game will be the No. 2 seed for the state tournament.
Riverton walked into the championship after beating Powell (16-1) and Bridger Valley (16-0).
"We were tight the whole game against Cody," Fabricus said. "We have a lot of kids who have played ball with the Cody kids. There are a lot of friendships there. That just increases the nerves a little bit. Our pitchers struggled with control a little bit."
Draper and Hayden Wempen hit three batters apiece in the district title game.
"We just need a little more experience in high-pressure situations," Fabricus said. "We got one at the end."
Riverton plays at 1 p.m. Wednesday, vs. Gillette in the opening round of the four-team state tournament in Laramie.
Gillette is the No. 2 seed from the other district, while Sheridan has the top seed. The state championship game is played Saturday afternoon.
Laramie was eliminated from the district tournament after being a powerhouse Little League team for the past several years.
Riverton 4, Cody 3
Cody earned a 2-1 lead Saturday in the title game after the first four innings of play.
Riverton turned the contest around in the bottom of the fifth inning, scoring three runs for a 4-2 cushion.
In the pivotal inning, Draper lead off the frame with a walk. Kobe Matsen had an RBI double to knot the score at 2-2.
Dillon Fabricus reached base when the Cody centerfielder couldn't catch a line drive.
Mason Lucas put Riverton up 3-2 with an RBI single.
"The fifth inning was really important," Lucas said. "We were actually kind of scared. We were all nervous and shaking because it's a tough game."
Wempen helped Riverton score the fourth run on an infield RBI single.
"We just got more into the game in the fifth inning," Lucas said. "We were kind of off balance in the first few innings. Then we just started to get into it."
Manager Fabricus was not surprised at all when Lucas delivered the big hit.
"Mason has done that all year long for us," Fabricus said. "He seems to have a knack for hitting those clutch hits like that. That is why we have him in the No. 5 spot in the batting order."
In the top of the sixth inning, Cody loaded the bases with two singles and a walk. Cody hit an RBI groundout to pull within 4-3 to set the stage for Draper's final out.
Wempen went 88 pitches for Riverton. Draper threw 42 in the last couple of innings.
"Hayden pitched great," Draper said. "He stopped them so that we could get the lead."
Cody's Brayden Polley threw 88 pitches in the six-inning game. Charlie Beaudrie had 11 pitches.
After suffering the loss to Cody, Lander turned things around by beating Green River on Thursday before taking down Bridger Valley and Powell.
"The Bridger Valley game was a good game for us," Lander manager Ernie Vierra said. "Defensively, we only had two errors that game. You have to make plays. We hit the ball very good. The combination of good hitting and defense helped us win the game. I told the kids after the Cody game just to stay the course and keep plugging away. "
Against Bridger Valley, Dominic Yates, Dominic Susanka, Conrad Swenson and Max Mazurie "all pitched good," Vierra said.
"They were all on a short leash. 20 pitches is a pretty short leash."
In the tight win over Powell, Yates went the distance for Lander.
Lander led 1-0 before Powell scored twice in the sixth inning. Lander scored one run in the bottom of the frame to force extra innings and got the victory in the seventh inning.
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