Errors costly for West Seattle Majors in All Star tournament
By Ed Shepherd
West Seattle made uncharacteristic mistakes in the field and that led to a 7-1 loss to Rainier despite out-hitting the foe for the game in the Little League All Stars Tournament, which was a winner's bracket final at Valley Ridge's turf baseball fields Wednesday.
Now West Seattle must play the Pac West-Renton winner Friday at 10 a.m. and, if they win that game, they will get another shot at Rainier.
But they have to beat them twice to go as the District 7 champ to state.
West Seattle, actually, outhit Rainier, 9-7, for the game and so losing by six runs really doesn't make a whole lot of sense until one puts the hits into a different perspective -- one with errors.
The game for West Seattle included too many errors, some good Rainier hits, no doubt,and, some good West Seattle hits, for that matter, but the early fielding errors by West Seattle set the tone for good things to come for one and not good things to come for the other..
Six of the seven Rainier runs were unearned.
"When you play your best baseball, you can expect good results," said West Seattle coach Jon Muench. "When you don't get throw-outs, you can't expect anything good to happen."
West Seattle watched Rainier score first in the top of the third inning on a fielding error, the ball going by the second baseman's glove, a hard hit, no doubt, that ball was ripped by the Rainier hitter. But, if the body is in front of ball, in goalie mode, it does not go by. It might hurt hitting the body but that "hit," not to mention hurt, is often the difference in winning and losing in baseball.
But, after that runner got on base by second base's error, and ensued to scored on another error as the ball was hit hard on the turf by the next Rainier batter. But, again, the glove of the first baseman, not the body, was in front of the zipping, bouncing ball and, hence, the ball zipped right on past his mitt and into right field. And the first batter who reached base by error scored to make it 1-0, Rainier.
Grass is a slower surface for a baseball to travel on than turf, but, that's still not to be an excuse, is it?
"It's simple baseball," said Muench. "We were hitting the ball and they were fielding it. They were hitting the ball and we were not fielding it."
After Rainier's score in the top of the third inning, West Seattle showed a comeback spirit and tied things up, 1-1.
Henry Muench hit a single that became a "triple" when the Rainier pitcher threw the ball by the first baseman. Muench's speed played a factor in a hurried throw by the pitcher to first. Then Kenji Suzuki came to the plate and hit a chopper over second base and into center field and that was more than enough time for Muench and his fast feet to touch home plate.
But an Ulee Hammer fielder's choice force of Suzuki at second base was followed by Ulee Hammer trying to steal second and not quite getting in safely, ending the inning.
In the Rainier top of the fourth, Kelly Corl hit the ball out of the park, over the right-center field fence. Some thought it bounced over and it looked like it may have bounced over, but the umpires gathered and the call remained the same: Home run.
So, Rainier took the lead, 2-1.
Rainier scored again in its fifth inning just like the fourth inning except that a batter reached base on a throwing error, or catch, as the throw from second base was low and off-line a little but catchable, it seemed. Either way, it was a dropped ball by the first baseman. So, when the second home run of the game came for Rainier, it was with a runner on base that didn't deserve to be there, and the score became 4-1, Rainier.
Suzuki pitched the innings that his defense let he and his teammates down and he spoke about that effort in the field.
"Our defense was not as good as it normally is," said Suzuki, who threw 39 pitches, relieving for Henry Muench -- who was the starting pitcher but Muench threw a lot of pitches in 2 2/3 of work and was lifted by manager Jason Woodward and coaches John Muench and Stan Debiac. Muench was pulled from the mound so he could stay under the pitch limit of 50 pitches and be able to pitch Friday's loser's bracket final game, if need be.
"We didn't have as good of a mental game as usual," Suzuki said.
And it hurt because only the first home run off Suzuki was an earned run (if it was one at all). The other two came after three outs would have been recorded if not for a fielding error.
Suzuki said some things of praise, too.
"But some big plays were made, too," he said.
Jackson Sullivan made a tremendous play at second base when Rainier had runners on base in the top of the third inning. Sullivan's play ended the threat as he dove to the ground to his right, stabbing with his glove for the ball that was rocketing toward center field. And he snagged it. Then, Sullivan made the throw to shortstop, Muench, stepping on the second base bag for the force out.
Jack Summers handled a hot grounder in this game well, playing third base for West Seattle.
So, yes, West Seattle made some nice plays on defense, too, including two put-outs of runners trying to steal second, with catcher Ulee Hammer throwing a perfect strike, twice, to Sullivan's glove, nabbing runners trying to steal.
But, Rainier put this game out of reach, pretty much, in the top of the sixth inning.
After the third West Seattle pitcher used of this game, Max Debiac, got a strikeout on the first Rainier batter, the ball was dropped by the catcher. And, per baseball rules, the runner can run to first base and that runner did just that as the ball got behind Hammer.
But, Debiac shook that play off and got the next batter out, who was the Rainier leadoff hitter. Then, the Rainier coach's son, Marshall Simon, was up, and he had two hits already in the game. But Debiac bore down, and, with a two ball, two strike count, put his glove to his face, stared at Simon, and pinned the ball on the outside of the plate. And, Simon didn't strike out but he took it to left field where a simple catch was made. So, that meant that the next hitter, Aaron Barber, who would hit an RBI double and make it a 5-1 game, was getting his team an unearned run since there should have been three outs already recorded in the inning but for the dropped third strike. And then the next batter against Debiac hit a 2-RBI double to the right-center field fence. And those two were unearned runs, not put on Debiac's ledger...
So, putting this game in perspective, West Seattle just didn't support its pitchers quite normally as Suzuki put it and this game should be put out of sight and out of mind, according to manager Woodward.
"He said the next game we can do better fielding the ball," said Henry Muench. "Don't get down on yourselves. Have a short-term memory. We will win the next ones."
Debiac added, "He said to come out winning and don't worry about this game."
Coach Jon Muench said that the game is behind them and the heat has been felt and it's time for everyone to see how West Seattle really plays baseball.
"We are ready," said Muench. "The fire is lit more so than before. We are ready to win next time, and, not just next time, but win the tournament. To win, it won't be easy. We have to play well to do so."