National drops Majors opener
By Ed Shepherd
South Highline National kept the game at a scoreless pace through the first two innings of play before getting behind by five runs in the third and not fully recovering for an all and all down feeling afterward from its opening round game 7-3 loss to Rainier.
The Little League District 7 All Stars Majors Tournament action was played at Valley Ridge Sunday.
Now, South Highline National's 11 and 12 year olds on this team must battle through the loser's bracket, with it's next game at 6 p.m. Monday and then, if they win, they will play on Thursday at 6 p.m. and on Friday at 10 a.m. And, then, get through those two games, they would play in the championship game and have to beat the winner's bracket team twice in order to advance to the state tournament that commences July 12 in West Seattle.
Pac West is their opponent on Monday, so they are in the same predicament, after having lost to West Seattle in their first game by 10 runs.
After this game, Philip Thornton, the team's manager, spoke to the players, who listened intently as he passionately let them know they can play better than they played against Rainier.
"The mood was not good," said Thornton. "Whenever you lose, the mood is not good."
Thornton expressed frustration with the potential this team has to play good baseball, but did not get it unlocked in this game.
"They didn't play up to their capabilities but they will tomorrow," said Thornton.
In this game, things started out fair enough with neither team scoring after two innings completed, with John Willott keeping Rainier off balance with his pitches. But, in the third inning, Rainier's players got things going with their bats for five runs on five hits, starting with its No. 9 hitter in their batting order singling. Then, the next batter singled, and then the Rainier coach's son, Marshall Simon, hit the ball hard to left field for a 2-RBI single, getting them on the scoreboard, 2-0.
Continuing its break-out inning, Rainier scored another on an RBI triple for a 3-0 lead. Then, an RBI from a sacrifice made it Renton, 4-0. And then capping off the damage, adding insult to injury, an inside the park home run made it a five run cushion for Rainier after two innings completed.
South Highline National then battled back for a run as Gary Clark hit the ball hard to the fence and it bounced over for a ground rule double, just missing being a home run.
"A couple feet off," said Clark.
A home run at that point would have been nice.
"It would have helped our team," said Clark. "It jump-started us and got us pumped."
Clark did still score, but after a steal of third followed by a throwing error by the Rainier catcher to pitcher, making it a 5-1 ballgame.
More runs would have been nice and were needed for South Highline National but would not come in that inning. Three straight strikeouts followed that good bit of hitting and running by Clark.
Rainier added two more runs in the top half of the fifth to make it a 7-1 game.
Then, for South Highline National, continuing to chip away, Matt Dacosta reached base on a fielding error before Aengus Adams launched the ball over the right-center field fence for a two-run home run and that cut Rainier's lead to 7-3.
And the next batter, Conner Reiff, drew a walk, so the score would get a lot closer if Clark, now up, would get one out instead of missing by a couple feet.
Thornton was acutely on his players from his third base coaching box all during the game, trying to get the players to beliieve in themselves and just play fundamental baseball. And Clark's at-bat was no different.
"Hey, we don't need a home run," said Thornton. "We need a base hit."
But Clark struck out.
"I struck out," said Clark, afterward, admitting that was a time Thornton's team could have been mounting a rally. "I got an infield single and a home run. I bet if we scored Conner there, if I had got a double into the gap, someone else would get a hit and it would go good from there."
Clark's mood was sanguine, happy of his home run and single, but wishing his team had won.
"I am not happy that we lost," said Clark. "I thought we played good near the end, but in the beginning we let runs score. We could have done better in the beginning."
In consolation for the loss, the manager of Rainier, Ray Simon, complimented this South Highline National team.
"It was a battle," said Simon, whose Rainier team faces West Seattle in the winner bracket final on Wednesday at 6 p.m. "National is a good team."