Big Leaguers win state opener

By Ed Shepherd

REDMOND--District 7's South Highline National hitter, Tommy Gracey, got just what he needed in his team's 7-6 win over District 8, from North Seattle, in opening round action of the Big League Baseball State All Stars Tournament at Redmond Ridge Park Sunday:
Fourteen innings.

That's how many frames this "Little League" association game needed to be played out by these mostly 17 and 18 year old players, an over three hour ballgame.

And this South Highline National, extra-innings, victory advances them to the winner's bracket final on Tuesday at 8 p.m.

"Before this game, I was pretty due," said Gracey, the leadoff hitter for his team, representing District 7 at the Big League state tourney. "The last few games of the regular season I was in a slump."

And, in this game, Gracey's slump continued until well after seven innings were played. Gracey began the game by grounding out in the bottom of the first inning, then he flew out in the third, and grounded out in the fourth, and grounded out in the sixth, before finally, in the bottom of the ninth, singling. But, that's just one hit out of Gracey's first five at-bats and that doesn't really break one out of a slump. And, then, Gracey made it 1-for-6 with the bat by grounding out in the bottom of the 12th.

Finally, with pitcher Coby Jones, having thrown five solid innings for South Highline National, from the 10th to 14th innings, and, Brandon Scott, before that relief pitching well in three innings, Gracey came to the plate for his seventh at-bat of the game.

But before Gracey came up to bat in the 14th, Robby Piovesan, the team's hustling catcher all game, batted and drew a walk. Then Andrew Stanton's sacrifice moved Piovesan to second base before Austin Prkut's single put runners at first and third base.

Then Gracey came to bat. And he smacked a fastball right up the middle for a game-winning RBI single, giving his team a lot of cheering to do along with their fans.

Jones pitched five innings of this game and, though not the starter, did get recorded as the winning pitcher. He was just happy things went as they did.

"I'm glad I helped the team out," said Jones, who, actually, plays for West Seattle Little League, but who's charter did not field a Big League All Stars team so Jones was free to join National's team. Most of the players on the team are from National. "Both teams hit well. We had a little slump at the end, but we kept putting our bats on the ball."
National started this game the right way, getting runs. After Gracey got out, Sam Maitland, who, at shortstop, made several nice fielding plays and throws to first base in this game, singled to center field then stole second base. Cody Jones followed with an RBI double, making it a 1-0 lead for National. Then Jimi Fay, who pitched solid for six innings in this game against good District 8 hitters, echoed Jones' plate doings, getting an RBI double as well, making it 2-0.

Then Fay, going to third base on a steal attempt, went home on an errant, overthrow of the third baseman's glove, high overhead, so the lead moved to 3-0.

But District 8, made up of players from Ballard and Richmond and Shoreline, came back with four runs in its top of the second inning on four singles and an RBI sacrifice. That made it 4-3 District 8 leading. And, it would add to its lead, getting a run off a single, walk, and, RBI single, in it's top of the third, to up the score to 5-3.

In the bottom of the fifth, after Gracey led off with an out, Maitland singled and Jones singled. Then Fay hit into a fielder's choice, allowing District 8 to get the lead runner at third base. But Ryan Macri drew a walk and that loaded the bases for Scott, who helped this team with more than his arm, like Jones, as he hit a hard shot into center field, a 2-RBI single, tying the game at 5-5. Not done yet, Piovesan came to the plate and hit and collected and RBI single, making it a 6-5 National lead.

The North Seattle based team tied it up in the top of the sixth on a single and RBI single, so it was 6-6. And that's where the score stayed until Gracey's slump-slamming game-winner.

"Our team pulled together," said Susan Gracey.

"They rallied," said Macri. "I love these boys. A lot of these boys have been playing together for years and years. A lot have jobs now, working, and, some still are going to school now and a lot are getting ready to go to college shortly. They all do a really good job."

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