Mason of the Reds slides safely into second base as the Nationals Nolan receives the ball.
SLIDESHOW: Reds rally to win wild one for title
By Ed Shepherd
And what does one say after your team wins a doozy of a ballgame in Little League's District 7 Minors Tournament Of Champions championship game action?
South Highline Nationals' Reds did, 12-11, over the West Seattle Nationals at the Normandy Park City Hall fields Monday.
"Been a long time" is what Reds manager Chad Parker said.
Cammie Pekonen, SHN president, said it's fair to say it's been, at least, five years since that charter's won TOC.
Parker liked the fact that his team won the league last year in AA before now going up to AAA Minors and winning it.
"I had nine returning players," said Parker. "Pretty remarkable we won last year with no TOC and then this year won with TOC."
Parker said, too, that his coaches help the whole thing go, with Bjorn Jackson and Gildo De Simone piecing this whole thing together as a fine-tuned work of art.
"I am the strictest of the three," said Parker. "And Bjorn is a step down from me, aggressive but speaks well to the kids, and Gildo is the most positive, saying 'You can do this' to the kids."
This game was filled with a can-do attitude and a talent that could do it, too, hitting, fielding, pitching, catching, all-around, as no doubt, West Seattle was a very good ballclub that nearly came back from seven runs down in the sixth, with all but one run a hit, only one walk in the foe's rally.
But the Reds started well, on defense, as second baseman Ulises Godinez fielded two of the outs, one time going high for a line drive shot destined for center field and the very next play, taking a bad-hop, hot grounder in the chest before making the play.
"He was, like, superman," said Tanner Jackson, who started off the game pitching for the Reds.
Godinez really was big in that first inning.
"He was huge in that first inning," said Parker. "He just has great instincts. For a 10 year old to stay there and take it in the chest, that's something."
"That runner could have been a run," said Godinez.
Or, two runs?
"Yeah," he said.
That pair of nice defensive plays kept the high-powered West Seattle offense off the scoreboard early and the momentum also quickly turned to the Reds' corner as in the bottom of the first inning the Reds scored a run as Savario De Simone singled, and Sean McLaughlin's RBI single to right field made it 1-0.
Then, after more good plays from McLaughlin making the long throw perfectly to first on one play and Jackson corraling and throwing a skipping grounder to first and Jackson striking out another that left two Nationals runners on base, the Reds came to bat in the bottom of the second inning.
Tanner Jackson started things off before Ronan Bishop's ground-rule double ripped under the fence in left field put runners at second and third. That set the table for Brayden Pedersen, whose RBI single made it 2-0. Then Jahmir Jackson's RBI single made it 3-0. And, after Brayden Jackson singled, Cooper Parker, the Reds' youngest player, just turned nine on May 12, struck at the first pitch.
Manager Parker, Cooper's dad, gave his son some good advice, then, "Swing harder and swing through the ball, OK."
Cooper, the very next pitch, did just as dad, Parker, instructed, reaching out to a hard pitch and swiping it into shallow left field and another run scored to make it 4-0.
"I thought it was to third base, I couldn't see where it went," said Parker. "My dad said to just swing the bat hard through and I did."
And then Godinez proved his golden glove at second could be almost eclipsed by his solid batting, ripping a 2-RBI double that made it a 6-0 Reds' lead after the second inning was through.
But, the Nationals of West Seattle roared back, proving they were worthy to be in the championship, scoring five runs on three hits, and, two sacrifices, too.
The Reds would not be daunted by that burst of offense and came back in the bottom of the third for four more runs on four hits. De Simone singled, Mason Hayes drew a walk, McLaughlin walked to load the bases. Next up, Cole Fenton, knocked a 2-RBI double to extend the Reds to a more comfortable lead again at 8-5. Then, Tate Parker, who finished up this game with solid pitching following Jackson's three and two-thirds innings of work, collected an RBI double and made it 9-5. Ronan Bishop got the bat on the ball, chopping it over the pitcher's head and the Reds led 10-5 after three innings completed.
Jackson struck out two and Parker came on to get the third batter to ground out to shortstop in the Nationals' top of four.
Jackson started two or three games this regular season but he was the man in this one with some of the other pitchers not able to go much.
Parker pitched in the semifinal and McLaughlin was also used up in that semi completely for the 75 pitch limit of Little League.
"I told him before the game, they are going to hit," said Parker. "You can't get frustrated when they hit the ball. I was a little nervous watching him warm up, throwing the ball all over the place. But, he did good."
The Nationals went down in order in the top of the fifth on two great catches from Brayden Jackson in right field of high looping fly balls, the other out a strikeout by Jackson's replacement, Tate Parker.
Of Brayden Jackson's catches, sights of beauty, Parker said, "He stood there and caught them like nothing."
The Reds added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth. Godinez singled, Tate Parker singled, De Simone had an RBI single, and Hayes' RBI sacrifice turned out to be the game-winner as the Reds led 12-5 after nicely manufacturing a run there and hitting the ball for another.
But the Nationals were a good team and players like Godinez knew it.
"I was thinking it was going to be a tough game," said Godinez.
And, it would come down to some kind of play that was some kind of wonderful for the Reds. But, first, before that, was some kind of ugly as the Reds committed a couple errors and it led to runs, and, some hits for runs were mixed in, too. The Nationals led off with a single, then, a single, and walk, loaded the bases. Then, a 2-RBI single cut the Reds' lead to 12-7. And another RBI single made it 12-8 with the bases loaded again. A ball to second base was misthrown to first and then to second, getting into center field. By the time the smoke cleared, the Nationals had three runs in and it was a 12-11 ballgame. Two outs were already recorded so only one out was needed.
And, it came wonderfully for the Reds when a ball was hit to Godinez, having moved from second to shortstop in the game. He did not catch the blooper that hit the webbing and went out, but he stayed with the ball and made the throw to first base like a champion would. It was a bang-bang play, and could have been tie to runner, almost, but the foot hit the bag a millisecond after the throw was there. Out!
So it was a big deal to win this?
"It was the championship of championships," said Jahmir Jackson.
Other players had things to say like, "I say Ulises (Godinez) got play of the day, jumping and catching that ball in the beginning of the game," said Hayes, whom Parker described as his most athletic player and his fine center fielder who made some nice throws home for outs in this tournament, including a clutch one against Renton in that nearly identical classic game, a 14-13 win for the Reds.
Parker summed things up, noting players like Brayden Jackson and Brayden Pedersen and his son, Cooper.
"The bottom of our order was clutch," said Parker, adding, "West Seattle was a very good squad. They are going to be a tough all-star team."
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