National reaches winner's final

By Ed Shepherd
SPORTS CORRESPONDENT

Pac West led, 10-9, late in a 9-10 All Stars Tournament nail-biter, and South Highline National manager Chad Parker pulled out all the stops, with his No. 7, No. 8 and No. 9 hitters and also No. 1 hitter in the batting order, Cadyn Sava, doing the final damage that translated to a stirring, 11-10, win, that included National having been ahead, 9-1, through four innings before Pac West rallied and nearly won this one at Pac West Fields Saturday.

The win moves South Highline National into the winner's bracket final game on Tuesday at 6 p.m. vs. Seattle Central.

This game between these two clubs came down to the very end, with Pac West ahead, 10-9, entering the bottom of the sixth and South Highline Natonal's Mason Hayes up, who singled and stole second base and third base. Then, the first out. Then, Jake Gwinn was up. After four pitches and a 2-2 ball/strike count, Parker called Gwinn over for a pep talk, in this pressure-cooker situation.

Was he really giving Gwinn a pep talk?

"No," said Parker, who manages and also is the third base coach. "I was asking him how come he was not following my signs. So I told him, after he walks, he is going from home to second, non-stop.

"I want to see the pitcher look to second and throw and I have a guy (Hayes) on third base. I want them to throw it so that I can send him home."

Great strategy and Hayes did walk, and did do exactly what Parker said he was to do. And the Pac West players' savvy didn't buy the bait and so runners stood at second and third base for National. Cole Fenton was up next and he got a couple strikes on him and balls and the tension was thick, indeed.

"It only takes one, Cole, let's go, baby," said Parker, clapping his hands, exhorting his player to lock in and do it.

And Fenton, the No. 9 hitter in the batting order for South Highline National, did it, getting the bat on the ball to bounce to the second-first hole that was picked up by Pac West's infielder. But he was unable to do anything and it was an RBI single, scoring Hayes to tie it 10-10,
Then Sava, one of the smallest guys on the team, hit the game-winning RBI through the infield and it was over, 11-10, South Highline National.
Sava spoke timidly after the game.

"I just went up there and hit it," the 9 year old said.

What a game. Both teams put up quite a showing.

After the game, as the players filed away, a small guy came up to Parker, as he was walking from the field.
It was Gwinn.

"Thank you, coach," he said.

"Good job, Jake," said Parker. "Nice game."

Really, both teams need to be thanked after this one as it was an equally awesome effort from Pac West, which completely eradicated itself from the 9-1 wreckage that had, first, started crashing in on them when, in the bottom of the second, South Highline National scored five runs on five hits, from Hayes' single, Gwinn's single and Evan Humphries' RBI single to make it 1-0, National. Then Sava walked and Savario DeSimone's 2-RBI triple made it 3-0. Then, an infield error allowed Andy Perovich to reach base before a Peter Hollabaugh single and Tate Parker RBI single made it 5-0.

Pac West scored one back in the top of the fourth, on a Brandon Bernard RBI single, scoring Aidan Bell, who singled before him and stole second base.

"We-are- fired up, we are fired up," said the Pac West dugout, over and over, in rhythmic cadence.

And though the Pac West rally fizzled there after one run across in their fourth, and then South Highline National did more damage, scoring four more runs in the bottom of the fourth. DeSimone walked, Peravich hit an RBI double, scoring DeSimone to make it 6-1. And Hollabaugh singled and Parker's 2-RBI single really put this game in doubt for Pac West, one would think, down, 8-1, now.

Still, another run crossed home plate for South Highline National in the fourth when Mason Quijano collected an RBI single to make it 9-1.
But Pac West was definitely not thinking "10-run-rule" where a game is called when a team is ahead by 10 runs, scoring run after run after run in their top of the fifth.

Leading off the eight-run fifth for Pac West, Lamont Richardson struck out. But, after the game, he spoke, and maybe a little character can be read from his lips.

"I didn't feel right striking out," said Richardson, who didn't start the game and whose first at-bat of the game was this at-bat. "But it felt right rooting for my team and I tried my best after that to do that."

So, that said, after Richardson struck out, up came Anthony Blondin to home plate, who singled. Then Leo Hamilton walked. Then Dylan Lanjill walked, too, loading the bases. Josiah Lyons unloaded most of the bases, hitting a 2-RBI single to center field, making it a 9-3 ballgame. Micah Hagler followed with a 2-RBI double to make it 9-5.

Down in the fifth yet, Bernard hit an RBI single, making it 9-6, and, then Zachary Hatcher's RBI single made it 9-7. Riley Piper walked. Blondin came up a second time in the inning and swung hard on a pitch, bouncing a laser up the middle for a 2-RBI single and this ballgame was tied, 9-9.

"We fought back a lot," said Hagler.

And the comeback would come full circle in the top of the sixth when Lanjill singled up the middle and Lyons hit the ball into right field, and Lanjill scored and Pac West led, 10-9.

South Highline National would do its bottom of the sixth comeback then to not really outdo Pac West's bottom of fifth eight-run one, but it was the comeback that mattered most.

Still, from Pac West players' perspective after the game, one could see that sportsmanship exuded from them.

"We did a very good job, and it was a very good game," said Lyons. "We did our best."

Manager of Pac West, Mark Peterson, just kind of repeated what's been already explained and said:

"We started out slow. But we went off in the fifth inning. We batted around."

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