Starting pitcher Ryan Macri of South Highline National's prepares to send one home. CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE FOR MORE
SLIDESHOW: West Seattle wins District 7 Senior all-star title
SEATAC--It was as close as close could be.
West Seattle squeaked to three one-run victories in a row to claim the District 7 Senior age 14-14 Little League baseball all-star championship and the state berth that goes with it.
The Westsiders open the 10-day double-elimination state tournament with a 1 p.m. game Monday, July 16 at the Sherman Anderson complex in Mount Vernon.
"At least it's this side of the mountains," said West Seattle manager Vinnie Sposari. "A couple of years ago we went to Spokane. This time we can go home to our own beds. I like our chances when we can do that."
Sposari and the West Seattle team also liked their chances going into the District 7 tournament at the PacWest complex in SeaTac, but had to do things the hard way after losing their opener to South Highline National, 3-2. They bounced back to beat Renton by a 4-3 score, then edged South Highline National, 4-3, in eight innings in the provisional championship game to force a second if-necessary game Friday.
That turned out to be another close pitcher's dual, with West Seattle winning, 3-2, on a run in the bottom of the seventh.
"After the first loss it would have been easy at this level to give up," Sposari said. "But we thought we could win it. We thought this was our turn."
Geoffrey Wukelich doubled into the right-field corner to open West Seattle's winning rally. A strikeout and a groundout ensued, but a two-out single to left by Jack Larsen pushed pinch runner DJ Kemp around third and then he scored on a close play at the plate.
Larson also helped his team to score first in the bottom of the first inning.
He worked South Highline National pitcher Jimi Fay for a walk, stole second, and then scored on a hard hit, one out single to right by Larry Jensen.
South Highline National tied it up again in the fifth inning as Fay launched a solo home run into a cottonwood tree beyond the left-field fence.
Cannon Westland then reached base on a dropped third strike with one out, and Jacob Dailey singled to put runners on first and second. Jason Bonham followed with a single, but Westland was thrown out at the plate by West Seattle left fielder Merle Rowen.
Dailey and Bonham advanced to third and second, respectively, on the throw-in, but were stranded on a fly out to left.
West Seattle took the lead again in the fifth when Joey Werlech walked, advanced on a Wukelich single and a double play ball and scored when Vinnie Sposari hit into a error.
South Highline National knotted it up again in the top of the seventh.
Jorge Esqueda singled, advanced on an errant catcher's throw, went to third on a Brandon Scott grounder and scored on a base hit by Ryan Macri.
Fay singled Macri over to third and Robbie Piovesan reached on a dropped third strike, but a grounder to short left the bases loaded.
That set the stage for West Seattle's winning rally in the bottom of the seventh.
Now the Westsiders have their sights set on a state title and then a trip to Ontario, Calif. for regionals, even though the competition at state will be tough.
"This team has grerat pitching, and that's the key," manager Sposari said.
Jensen struck out nine South Highline National batters in the District 7 championship, and Fay struck out seven West Seattle batters.
South Highline National outhit West Seattle, 10-6.
John Coats and Fred Jensen are serving as coaches for Sposari on the West Seattle team, and players are Alexander Coats, Cody Jones, Lawrence Jensen, Brian J. Kelly, Daniel J. Kemp, Jack Larsen, Buick MacNamara, Vincent Sposari, John Roach, Merle Rowan-Kennedy, Joseph Werlech and Geoffrey Wukelich.
South Highline National was managed by Dave Scott with Shawn Dailey and Tim Fay serving as coaches. The players were Ben Hunter, Brandon Scott, Cannon Westland, Graysen Delich, Jacob Dailey, Jimi Fay, Jason Bonham, Jordan Haworth, Jorge Esqueda, Robbie Piovesan, Ryan Macri, Sam Maitland and Tommey Gracey.
West Seattle took third in the age 9-10 all-star baseball tournament, taking a loss to Rainier District in the loser's bracket final.
Steve Savage managed the West Seattle crew along with coaches Michael Grienauer and Rick Southall.
West Seattle players were Nick Cooper, Greg Cramer, Jackson Grienauer, Oz Hichens, Will Holmes, Elijah Markham, Justin Murphy, Sam Pare, Issac Patchen, Nate Rasmussen, Connor Savage and Dominic Taylor.
The West Seattle president is Brian Pare.
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