West Seattle forces second final
By Ed Shepherd
West Seattle stared at a three-run deficit, 11-8, entering the bottom of the seventh inning.
But on the strength of the bottom of the batting order and leadoff hitter Chris Frost's game-winning shot over the center fielder's head, West Seattle came back to beat South Highline National, 12-11, in the first championship game of the Little League All Stars Intermediate District 7 Tournament at Pac West Fields Monday.
The second, if-necessary championship game will be played Tuesday at 6 p.m. with the winner advancing to the state tournament that starts in mid-July. The reason West Seattle needs to win one more is they were put into the loser's bracket on Saturday by South Highline National by a 6-5 score.
This win makes things a lot more interesting now, with South Highline National's leeway cushion gone, and, now is in the same position as West Seattle and the winner takes it all on Tuesday.
In this game of back-and-forth action where the lead changed hands three times, and the game was tied at four points along the way, at 1-1, 3-3, 7-7 and 11-11, it all came down to the bottom of seven as the score was 11-10 after Hunter Hammington' RBI and Nathan Pelley doubled and hit a run in to tie it up. And, and what happened next?
"And Christopher Frost hit a triple and scored me from second and we won the game," said Pelley.
Frost hit it deep and high and out to the farthest away part of the field in center field, over the center fielder's head. There was no doubt after Frost's bat hit the ball that this game was over and Frost could just watch that ball sail and Pelley rounded third and headed home.
"It was pretty awesome," he said. "But I couldn't have been in that situation if Hunter and Nate hadn't had clutch hits before me."
Was Hunter, the No. 8 hitter in the order -- with Pelley No. 9 --nervous coming to the plate in that situation, team down two runs, two outs and going home if he doesn't do something?
"No," said Hammington. "I wasn't."
If he wasn't nervous, what was Hammington in that clutch situation?
"Strong," said Hammington.
"So you don't be afraid of the pitcher," he said.
That comeback was about a team then not just clutch hitting but being strong?
"Yeah, clutch hitting and strong, too," said Hammington, whose mom, Kui, did a great job leading fans in cheers in this game, pom-poms included.
"The fans were all behind them," said Kui Hammnington. "Did you hear us? Did you see me? I was the one standing up and yelling with the pom-pons."
Indeed, it was a total team and fan effort as Joe Pare pitched this game and manager Mark Douglas couldn't be anything but proud of his effort and the whole team's as his smile after the game said.
Fans must have been with a place in Douglas' heart too.
They gave Pare a cheer when he left the game from pitching six innings of it, with a cheer of "Give me a 'P.' Give me an 'A'. Give me an "R". Give me an "E". What does that spell?"
All of the fans in unison answered with this: "Great job, Joe Pare."
Noah Oehling caught the whole game and was a hustler back there to get to balls that got behind him a couple times, including one time that he raced to get a guy out trying to steal third after a ball had got behind him to the backstop. But he spoke of Pare's efforts in this game.
"He did a good job mixing up pitches and doing a great job hitting targets," he said.
Oehling liked his team's play in this game but for one bad inning.
"Just the bad inning. We managed to get out of it and win the game," said Oehling.
This game was good from the start, with back-and-forth closeness and feel to it as South Highline National struck for a run in the top of the first inning on a walk, triple and sacrifice to make it 1-0. West Seattle tied it in the bottom half of one as Frost drew a walk, and, Pare's RBI sacrifice scored him.
National untied it in the top of the third on a two-run double and it was 3-1.
West Seattle scored two right after that on the strength of a Pelley single, Frost walk and Pare 2-RBI single.
After Oehling made that nice hustle play, tagging a runner trying to steal home, West Seattle, seemingly, was starting to blow this game open, in the bottom of the fourth, to take a 6-3 lead as Will Douglas walked and Nathan Villegas hit an RBI single.
Frost also collected an RBI and Henry Ruf had two RBI on a double. The smoke cleared and West Seattle led, 6-3, after the foruth completed.
Pare continued to pitch strong for West Seattle and mowed down two of the National batters in the foe's top of the fifth and the other out was catcher Oehling making a strong throw to second base, right on the button to nab the runner attempting to steal.
Then West Seattle scored another run in the bottom of the fifth to further put this game out of reach of National, 7-3, as Eli Dever turned a single and an overthrow to first base into a heads-up rouding of second base with slight hesitation to make the first baseman think he wasn't going. Dever just put his head down and ran there. Then Will Douglas' RBI sacrifice scored Dever.
This is where the game got real interesting and not in a good way for West Seattle, as that one "bad inning" that Oehling spoke of earlier happened. National scored seven runs on six hits.
But West Seattle would get one in the bottom of the sixth as Hammington's hustle beat a close throw to first base on a grounder to third base and then on the overthrow to first base Hammington charged into second. That was a nice place to be for next up, Henry Ruf, who hit an RBI double and scored Hammington to make it a 10-8 ballgame.
National stretched it to a three-run deficit for West Seattle after its top half of the seventh at-bats on two hits, but, that was not going to be a run that detered West Seattle from going headlong strong into the finish and winning this one in the dramatic seventh inning comeback.
"We knew we could come back," Hammington said.
So, one more game for West Seattle to play strong and state will be the fruit of that labor.
For the game, West Seattle outhit South Highline National, 11-10.
Pare threw 97 pitches in the game, going a long time out there and doing well enough, combined with his offense supporting him, not to mention defense and his own good hits offensively, too.
Only one pitcher came on in relief, Frost, who pitched great, too, in an inning and two- thirds of work, after one out in the sixth.