Early hole dooms West Seattle; South Highline National bests them 6-5

By Ed Shepherd
SPORTS CORRESPONDENT

West Seattle dug itself into a big hole after having led early, 1-0, against South Highline National and just could not quite hit themselves out of it in a 6-5 loss to South Highline National during Little League All Stars Intermediate baseball action at the Pac West Fields in Burien Saturday.

These players ages 11-13 and between the Majors All Stars level and the Juniors level of 13-14 year olds played another game like the majority of the regular season ones against South Highline National--close.
"That's a good team. We've gone back-and-forth with them all season," said West Seattle Intermediate All Stars Manager, Mark Douglas.

Indeed.

Aside from a 10-run rule loss to National early in the season, that only served to lead the way to improvement for the next two games. The games after that blowout during the season were much closer -- a loss by one run one game and a win by two in the other meeting before this one.
This game started off close enough, with West Seattle getting on the board first, thanks to Henry Ruf's single leading off the top of the first inning. Christ Frost walked and Will Douglas collected a sacrifice RBI, scoring Ruf, that made it 1-0, West Seattle.

National shoveled that score to its favor in its bottom half of the first, with two singles along with a home run over the fence in left field.

Then, in the bottom of the second inning, National added to it's lead via Joey Rivero's double and steal of third before a balk by the West Seattle pitcher made it 4-1 National. One more would come across after a walk and an RBI double made it 5-1.

West Seattle's fight wasn't nearly out of them as they scratched and clawed away, getting three runs on three hits in the top of the third inning. Joe Pare singled, Christ Frost swung at the ball and it slowly moved by the pitcher and the throw to first by the second baseman was just after Frost touched the bag. With two on base, Kelvin Wallace's sacrifice to second base scored Pare, who had also stole second base a pitch before. And that made it 5-2, National. Douglas connected bat to ball and sent a grounder to the third baseman who could not get the ball thrown to first base before Douglas touched first and Frost scored to make it 5-3.
So, good things were happening as they do when one makes contact, even if a play looks like it could be an out like Douglas at-bat just mentioned.

And, down two runs now at 5-3, West Seattle scored one more on Eli Dever's RBI single to shortstop. And, again, Dever's hustle to the bag beat the throw to first base and also Wallace scored on the play when the shortstop's throw went past the first baseman to make it 5-4, National. The rally died after that on a strikeout.

Then, Henry Ruf began pitching in the bottom of the third inning for West Seattle and he would go on to shut down National but for one run more the rest of the way. Some good defense along the way for West Seattle pitching from center fielder, Eli Dever, making a sliding catch. And, Ruf noted it.

"He's really strong in center field," said Ruf. "He helps me out a lot."

But, that all said, this game came down to the offense helping Ruf's strong relief pitching out and the chance was there in the top of the fifth when an innocent lead off walk to Frost became danger to Natonal as Frost stole second base and went to third on a balk by the National pitcher. But the next two batters struck out and the rally became helpless, and Frost was left stranded on third base.

"We didn't hit the ball when we needed big hits in key situations," said Manager Douglas.

West Seattle's Ruf pitched well then, with a run coming in for National in the bottom of the sixth inning by an error to make it 6-4, National. But West Seattle, true to manager Douglas' words, they could get one run across in their top of the seventh to cut National's lead to 6-5, but could not do any more. And a lot more damage could have been done as Hunter Hammington and Ruf drew back-to-back walks to open the seventh. Then Joe Pare's good eye gave him a walk. And, just like that, the bases were loaded with West Seattle guys. But, similar to the inning before's petering out rally in the sixth, the same came true in this final gasp for West Seattle as the final three batters struck out, grounded out and struck out to end the game.
Will Douglas, the manager's son, knew what West Seattle could have won this game.

"Hit the ball," said Douglas, who can be credited with two of West Seattle's five RBI in this game.

Manager Douglas echoed those same words of son Will's.
"They hit the ball better than us," he said.

Just barely, but, National did outhit West Seattle, 5-4.

But no hits came for National after the third inning, and all that credit goes to Ruf.
But, the season is not over yet and the hits can start coming as West Seattle has a chance to come back. If they beat Southwest in a 9 a.m. loser-out game Sunday then they will play in the championship game against National on Monday at 6 p.m. West Seattle will have to beat National twice (if-necessary game Tuesday 6 p.m.) to be champs since West Seattle is now coming through the loser's bracket.

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