West Seattle 9-10's took the District 7 Championship with wins over Seattle Central. Now they go on to the State Championship. The team threw their hats in air after winning the game.
SLIDESHOW: West Seattle 9-10's take District 7 championship
By Ed Shepherd
Doing it the hard way in the Little League All Stars 9-10 Tournament, West Seattle came back through the loser's bracket all the way to being able to throw its caps in the air and shout "champions," which is exactly what they did after beating Seattle Central, the first game, 8-5, and the second, 14-0, at Pac West Fields Saturday.
"On to state," said West Seattle manager Isaiah Brent.
These District 7 9-10s champions go to Richland for state that starts July 12.
In the second game, the one that decided it all, West Seattle rode the arm of Jack Leers through the whole thing, not to mention his bat.
"Jack Leers," said Brent, afterward, ecstatic with that player's performance in the game two championship as well as thrilled with his whole teams' great comeback through the loser's bracket of playing six games in six days, dating back to a 9-6 loss to Seattle Central that put West Seattle in the loser's bracket last Sunday.
"Jack hits for the cycle, pitches a complete game, five shutout innings," said Brent . "I ran over and gave the game ball to his dad after the game."
Leers did pitch well a day earlier against South Highline National, but that was only 20 pitches as the second of four pitchers used by Brent.
This game was different.
"The championship," said Leers.
Leers threw 75 pitches for the game, averaging 15 pitches per inning, which is a sign in itself of how good he threw, not facing many batters per inning.
"I felt great as an All Star pitcher, I've been learning from a college player, Andrew Olson. It was myself and the other Jack on the team," said Leers. That would be Jack Peterson, who pitched great in the game one championship versus Seattle Central,to note.
"My team did great in this game for me," said Leers.
"They backed me up great on defense so I didn't have to throw too many pitches."
Seventy-five pitches is the maximum number 9-10s can throw in a game, so Leers allowed manager Brent to use just him in this game when most of Brent's other pitchers were pretty much spent of innings, not to mention arms tired, from throwing all those previous games through the loser's bracket.
"Jack's pitching performance is the most impressive I've ever seen," said manager Brent.
That kind of whole-game effort by Leers, doing it for the team when the team really needed him to do it, was what one of the coaches on West Seattle, Corey Helmstetler, spoke fondly of, wholeheartedly, describing the make-up of this team.
"We came through the loser's bracket and we just fought, fought and fought with heart," said Helmstetler, who is the first-base coach for West Seattle.
The players wasted no time in this do-or-die championship game in doing its trademark team cheer, doing it a double dose even, before they went to bat in the first inning.
"Westside, Westside, Westside," they shouted. "Westside, Westside, Westside."
The hitting in the game two championship was led by Leers, as manager Brent aforementioned, having hit for the cycle, which means a batter gets a single, a double, a triple and a home run in the same game.
Starting the game, in the West Seattle top of the first inning, it was Leers' standing at third base for a triple after a hard hit got by the center fielder to the fence. Then Will Godwin drew a walk before Matt Acarregui hit the ball to the third baseman, who threw to first base but Leers came in to score on the play for West Seattle's first run of the game.
Jaxton Helmstetler, who played great shortstop all tournament for West Seattle, came up to the plate next, and hit a line drive to left field, upping the lead to 2-0.
West Seattle scored no more in the top of the first and Leers got out of a bases-loaded jam in the Seattle Central bottom of the first inning, inducing a batter to pop out to first base.
In the second inning for West Seattle, James Triol led off with a double over the center fielder's head. Then Maddox Brent stepped up to the plate and he turned on a pitch and Leers kind of saw what was about to happen.
"I could tell he was focusing on the ball and he hit it just right," said Leers.
Manager Brent talked about his son, too.
"He's been doing a hitting circuit. It's all about hitting the inside of the baseball, getting the hands through first with the bat."
Maddox is just about the smallest guy on the 13-man, or, boy, rather, West Seattle roster, weighing in at 70 pounds, maybe. But, this little Westsider got all of that ball, and, still, as it flew, little Brent wasn't sure of things, like, probably most fans and parents packing the stands.
"I actually thought it was a double," said Maddox Brent.
But, after Maddox turned on the pitch, cr-ack, it was a 2-run home run over the left field fence and that made the score, 4-0, as the mom of one of the players, Refawne Acarregui, led cheering in the stands, complete with cowbell dinging, and red pom-poms flailing from others. Louder and louder.
And, especially loud were they all, as Leers then swung the bat around fiercely right after Brent and that shot over the left center fence to make it 5-0 West Seattle.
Then, in the third inning, West Seattle started with Helmstetler's single, then Jack Peterson's RBI-single made it, 6-0. Then Peterson, stealing third, the ball overthrown to third base and he went home to make it 7-0.
In the fourth inning, Nolan Whorton ripped an RBI-single and it was 8-0.
One more inning of offense came in the fifth inning for this Westside team as Milo Sorenson and Brent singled before Leers hit a 2-RBI double to make it a 12-0 score. Jayden Holloway then collected an RBI single and Milo Sorenson, too, got a sacrifice to cap the scoring.
In the Seattle Cenral bottom of five, Acarregui made a nice play at third base, getting a line-drive that he moved his mitt a foot to the left to pocket and Will Godwin showed that heart that one of the coaches, Helmstetler, spoke of when he dove for a ball trailing away as he ran after it in left center field. He didn't get it, came up hurt, even, but the effort showed his team he wasn't afraid to take some pain. That's what champions do, isn't it?
"I landed on my elbow, knocked the wind out of me," said Godwin.
The team enjoyed this time of playing and Helmstetler was asked what he liked most and he pretty much summed it all up wholeheartedly.
"The whole experience," said Helmstetler, who made some super plays at shortstop, charging in on the ball to the infield grass so it didn't have a chance to take a bad hop on the sand, this game and all tournament. "It was fun making a whole lot of friends."
And this experience is not over yet. Not even close.
"Win state," said Godwin.
Players for West Seattle are: Nolan Whorton, Maddox Brent, Will Godwin, Matt Acarregui, Jaxton Helmstetler, Jack Peterson, Nick Hazelgrove, Felix Schlede, James Triol, Jack Leers, Jayen Holloway, Milo Sorenson and Liam Floyd. The manager is Isaiah Brent. Coaches are Mike Triol and Corey Helmstetler.
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