Nationals fend off A's for Minors title
By Ed Shepherd
Good, good, good.
Good hitting, good fielding and good managing led the way for the Nationals in an 18-6 if-necessary championship game win over the A's in West Seattle Minors end of season league tournament action at Bar S Fields Sunday.
The Nationals will move on now to the District 7 Tournament of Champions for the Minors division, which commences June 13 at the Normandy Park City Hall diamonds.
But, in this game, after experiencing a loss to the A's the day before, the Nationals came back to play with their 'A' game against the A's.
They knocked out 18 hits in six innings.
"The game last night was not indicative of what this team can put forth," said Nationals manager Isaiah Brent. "What they did today is what they've done all year. They are the hardest working team."
The Nationals won the Minors division with a 12-2 record and went through the winner's bracket of the end of season tourney until the As beat them Saturday to force the deciding Sunday championship game.
But this final game could have gone either way.
After some early National offense scored a nice lead for them, it was the A's pitcher, Luke Landskov, settling down into a good groove pitching the next few innings for his team.
But the Nationals jumped on the A's starting pitcher for four runs on four hits in the first inning.
Nolan Whorton led off with a double and Maddox Brent hit him home for a 1-0 lead. Felix Schlede's 2-RBI triple made it 3-0. After a walk to Owen Earls, Alex Zanolli's line-drive double made it 4-0.
In the bottom of the first Milo Sorensen, the Nationals' catcher, with a runner on base, made a nice grab of a bunt attempt popped up in front of home plate.
Overall, Brent said this game was a good one defensively for his squad, the best.
"That's the best defense we've played all season," he said. "We were really hitting, today, too."
The score stayed 4-0 Nationals as Landskov and Nationals starter Maddox Brent pitched scoreless innings until the bottom of the third, when the A's evened the score and more.
Jonathan Unruh started his team coming back with an infield single. Then Molly Cook drew a walk. Jackston Helmstetler's single loaded the bases. An RBI single by Liam Floyd made it a 4-1 ballgame. Jayden Holloway followed with an RBI single and it was 4-2. Still, with no outs, Nick Hazelgrove lined a shot to the left-center gap in the outfield and that brought across three RBI for him, which gave the A's a 5-4 lead.
The Nationals roared back in the top of the fourth as Zanolli led off the inning with a single, with Dimitri Lawrence drawing a walk before the No. 7 hitter in the lineup, Cashen Tomlinson, made good with a RBI single to knot the score at 5-5.
Landskov came back and got a couple strikeouts and a ground out to end the Nationals' threat.
Landskov left the mound after the fourth for the A's as manager Mark Cook said why.
"He started to get a little bit tired out there," he said of Landskov, one of the smaller little guys out on the field in this game who gave a good effort out there.
But Landskov leaving the hill was not good news for the A's as the Nationals went to work in the top of the fifth inning for three runs on four hits, with Whorton singling, Maddux doubling, and James Triol singling home Whorton and Maddux for two RBI and a 7-5 lead. One more run came across in the fifth from an error, pushing the Nationals' advantage to 8-5.
Back came the A's in the bottom of the fifth to nearly change everything.
Unruh singled, Helmstetler doubled and Floyd walked, loading the bases for Holloway who performed the same act he did his last at-bat -- collecting an RBI single. That made it 8-6 Nationals with the bases still loaded with two outs.
Next up was clean-up hitter, Hazelgrove and this at-bat he almost tied the score, if not for a great play from starting pitcher, Maddux Brent, now playing at first base. Hazelgrove hit the ball hard, a chopper, bouncing to Maddux, who brought his glove into his chest area to make certain that ball wasn't going by him. He gloved it and outran Hazelgrove to first base.
It was good managing, too, as the pitch was high that the A's best hitter swung at.
That was in the game plan, too, said the manager, Brent.
"The only game plan was Jayden (Holloway) and Nick (Hazelgrove)," said Brent. "We couldn't just give pitches across the plate to them. And, if they hit it, they hit it. We had to take the risk. If you give them a good pitch, they will make you pay."
From a player's perspective, and, one of the better players on the A's, Helmstetler did a good job catching and playing shortstop in this one.
Besides, solid hitting this game and all season, had this to say of their best hitter's chance to do a lot of damage with the bases loaded and only two runs down in the fifth.
"Yeah," said Helmstetler, pausing a second, adding, "Nick did great."
So did Maddux.
"He was strong there," said the manager, Brent. "He's my son so I don't mind gushing on him. I knew if we had him in there, we would have a chance to win. Best quality is he does not get rattled."
Wharton, the Nationals' leadoff hitter, said he looked forward to this game much better than the last game against the A's the day before, having lessons learned from that one.
"I had a better feeling about this game," said Wharton. "You can't be nervous, it affects your game."
The young Maddux Brent put things in perspective, too, of why it's quite possible to feel nervous as only one team advances to the Tournament of Champions from the West Seattle Little League Minors division -- the champs.
"I was pretty nervous," said Maddux, who went 4-for-4 with 3 RBI in the if-necessary championship game. "I knew if we lost once we would go home."
"It was fun, exciting, kind of a bummer we lost," said Helmstetler of the A's.
"We were really even," said the A's manager, Cook. "We had a big inning yesterday. They had a big inning today and they deserved to be champs."
The Nationals put the game away with 10 runs in the sixth on seven hits.
Players for the A's are Jackston Helmstetler, Liam Floyd, Jayden Holloway, Nick Hazelgrove, Paul Larson, Bailey Corl, Quinton Gambone, Luke Landskov, Lucas Evans, Jonathan Unruh and Molly Cook.
The manager is Mark Cook and coaches are Corey Helmstetler, Jeff Larson and Jeff Landskov.
Players for the Nationals are Cashen Tomlinson, Nolon Whorton, Maddox Brent, James Triol, Felix Schlede, Owen Earls, Alex Zanolli, Dimitri Lawrence, Gavin Lawrence, Miles Kelly and Milo Sorenson. The manager is Isaiah Brent and the coaches are Mike Triol and Noel Whorton.