Bend North shuts out Billings

Semifinals await for local Little Leaguers

By Landon Negri / For The Bulletin

Next up

Bend North vs. TBD

When: 2 p.m. Thursday

TV: ESPN2

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — The boys from the Bend North All-Star baseball team are starting to feel good.

Now the challenge is to not feel TOO good.

Logan Wehrman sparked a four-run rally in the second inning, and Dylan Ruhl pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the bottom of the sixth as Bend won its third consecutive game in the Little League Northwest Regional with a 5-0 shutout of Boulder-Arrowhead of Billings, Montana, Tuesday at Al Houghton Stadium.

Bend North became the first team in the six-team field to complete pool play. At 3-1, it will be the No. 2 seed in the Northwest and play the No. 3 seed — possibly Montana again, or Alaska — in the first semifinal at 2 p.m. Thursday. Pacific, from Lynnwood, Washington, finished 4-0 and will be the top seed going into the semifinals.

“Now, we’re just peaking at the right time, in my opinion,” Bend manager Dan Ruhl said. “I love it.”

Bend won Tuesday by plating four runs on two hits and three walks in the second inning and relying on pitching and defense from there.

Starting pitcher Henry Tobias threw 2 2⁄3 no-hit innings, reliever Evan Scalley held the lead until the sixth, and Dylan Ruhl escaped without a scratch for the save.

“The whole Oregon team — they came to play,” Montana manager Tyler Johnson said. “They are a solid group. And they play together really well. They have good role players. They put the ball in play when they needed to, and they played solid defense.”

Montana’s best shot came at the end, when it loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth. Scalley gave way to Dylan Ruhl, who twirled his way out of the jam.

He got Josh Erbacher out on a screaming comebacker that Ruhl caught on the fly. He then struck out No. 5 hitter Johnathan Nicholoff swinging and No. 6 Brad Haynes looking — on the outside corner — to end the game.

“To put a kid in a situation with the bases loaded against Nos. 4-5-6 hitters with no outs — that’s something where Dylan had come through for us time and time again,” said Dan Ruhl, Dylan’s father. “He’s one of those kids — he looks like a surfer dude and he’s laid back with those curls — but he’s calm in those situations.

“You want that kid who comes in and isn’t nervous about it.”

Montana’s pitching did keep Bend off balance. Erbacher, the starter, relied on a knuckleball, of all things, and Bend had to scratch out its runs.

“(He) threw mostly knuckleballs,” Scalley said, “which was different than anything we’ve seen, so we had to adjust.”

Perhaps Dan Ruhl’s biggest challenge now as a manager is to keep his team moving a step at a time. With pool play completed, and Bend North playing well, the Bend players know that Williamsport, Pennsylvania — home of the Little League World Series — is only two victories away.

“We’re feeling confident,” Ruhl said. “We’ll let Washington be the No. 1 team and feel even more confident. But remember, Montana and Alaska are solid too, and either one of those teams could beat either one of us.”

Wehrman, whose two-run single got Bend North rolling in the second inning, echoed his manager’s confidence.

“We have the potential to go all the way and get to Williamsport,” Wehrman said. “But we don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves.”