West Seattle Little League's Nationals fall to Normandy Park 12-11

By Ed Shepherd
SPORTS CORRESPONDENT

Not much to say except what West Seattle Little League's Nationals Manager Isaiah Brent said so well, and what players on the team repeated, after this group of 9 and 10 year old boys nearly won the Minors Tournament of Champions championship game in a 12-11 loss at Normandy Park City Hall Park Monday.
"Those kids can hit," said Brent. "I'm shocked they have 13 players that hit the ball so well."

But, besides classy accolades to the champion South Highline National Reds, Brent said more.

"But they almost did it, almost had a chance," said Brent of his team. "They got on us early, but, you know what, these Nationals came back from deficits two times. So close, in the end. It was a dream season. I thought we had something special. And, we did."

Just one of those games that iron sharpened iron and the Reds came out on fire early, offensively, and, certainly, defensively, too, as the Reds were not the only one hitting the ball hard.
In the top of the first, no question the Nationals were at the top of their game.

First batter Nolan Whorton ripped a high-flying line-drive that looked to be going over the Reds second baseman's head but with a leap, high, and a mitt stretched fully, the ball went into the mitt like a snow cone.
That was the first out of the game and really did set the tone for what was to come. And, it came, and it was the very next batter, Maddox Brent who ripped a hot grounder through the infield but the Reds second baseman got in front of the ball. And, even after the ball skipped up into his chest at the last minute, the infielder, Ulises Godinez, kept the ball in front of him to grab and throw out Maddox at first.
"They were in the perfect place every time we hit it, and they had good defense," said Brent.

Then, when the Reds came to bat, they hit the ball against Nationals starting pitcher, Maddox Brent, who threw nine strikes in the inning and no balls. He was pitching it fast and over the plate, just these Reds hitters could really hit as in the bottom of the first inning, scoring one run on two hits.

Then, in the Nationals' second inning, a grounder to Godinez, was bare-handed and thrown to first just in time, for another great defensive play that thwarted Nationals' efforts as runners had got on base before that play via a walk to Dimitri Lawrence and a Cashen Tomlinson single.

But, in the second, things really took off for the foe, getting six hits for five runs and leading then, 6-0.
"They started off hitting the ball really well," said Milo Sorensen, the Nationals' catcher, doing outstanding back there. To note, quickly, if a ball got by him on a pitch he was right on top of it, throwing off his mask. Runners often come home on catchers who have passed balls or wild pitches but not Sorensen. Really, though, in this game, for Sorensen, runners stealing home on passed balls and wild pitches wasn't happening. The Reds just hit the ball perfectly, where the infielders and outfielders were not located. Through two innings, Maddox Brent through 22 strikes and only three balls.

"They played good baseball," said Sorensen. "It was hard to catch up to that momentum."
But, what happened?

"But we caught up to them, twice," said Sorensen.

So, after the Reds led, 6-0, the Nationals came back in the top of the third inning with three hits and two sacrifices nicely added in. Miles Kelly led off with a good eye at the plate, drawing a walk. Then Sorensen singled through the shortstop-third base gap into left field. Whorton's sacrifice out, hitting the ball to the pitcher, moved the runners to second and third. Then, Maddox Brent collected a 2-RBI double, on a ground-rule double that didn't stop until it rested under the makeshift fence in center field. So, it was 6-2, and, the Nationals were a-coming.

Next came James Triol, walking.

And, with runners on first and second bases, Felix Schlede unloaded them with a triple that made it a 6-4 ballgame. Owen Earls' sacrifice to second base scored Schlede and it was a 6-5 ballgame.
Only five runs per inning for Minors can be scored per Little League rules, which was the case for the Reds, too, the inning before, so the Reds were up to bat.

The Reds extended their lead in the bottom of the third inning as Saverio De Simone singled and Mason Hayes drew a walk and Sean McLaughlin walked to load the bases. Cole Fenton found the sweet spot on the bat and ripped a 2-RBI double between left and center field and it was 8-5. Two more scored on a couple singles and the Nationals stared at a five run deficit, 10-5, after the third inning completed.
The Nationals hit the ball in the bottom of the fourth as Sorensen and Whorton both hit high fly balls fairly deep to right field but the outfielder backpedaled for one and caught it and came in a little to catch the other.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Reds scored two more on two singles and to key RBI sacrifice infield hits to make it 12-5.

And, then, when all seemed lost, down seven runs, going into the bottom of the sixth, the Nationals made this one nearly change course.

Maddox led off with a single, stole second, and Felix Schlede singled and runners were at first and third base. Owen Earls drew a walk and the bases were loaded. Then, Alex Zanolli hit a 2-RBI single and it was 12-7 the Reds leading. Then Tomlinson's infield single, nice hustle to first base, was an RBI to make it 12-8.
And, with the West Seattle clubhouse in chanting, joyful raucous, seeing the comeback materialize, Dimitri Lawrence was up. First, he got a piece of the ball a couple times, fouls, as teammates in the dugout cheered, "You got a piece of it, a piece of it, now get the rest of it."

Lawrence did, getting a ball to go to third base that was overthrown to first base and then to second base and three runs came in and it was a 12-11 game at that tense point.

Sorensen was the next batter and he hit the ball and it blooped and dropped right into and popping out of the shortstop's mitt. But, shortstop, Ulises Godinez, who was at second base early in the game, and, moved by Reds manager, Chad Parker, stayed with the play and followed through with the throw to first base and it was a bang-bang play. And, tie did not go to the runner, or, the throw was just in the nick of time. Umpire said it was in time so it was. Could have gone either way.

"So close," said manager Brent of the Nationals. "If Milo beats that throw, it's a whole new ballgame."
Schlede echoed coach Brent's words after this one, "We had a great team. So close. They hit the ball."

And, that says it all.

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