Photos by Ed Shepherd
South Highline National Big League team photo, with District 7 Champions banner, after having taken second place at state.

SLIDESHOW: Big Leaguers secure second

By Ed Shepherd
SPORTS CORRESPONDENT

REDMOND--District 7's South Highline National team made a great run but fell just shy of a championship with a 9-1 loss to District 9, the host team from Redmond, in the Big League Washington State All Stars Tournament at Redmond Ridge Park Thursday.

So, second place in the state, not too bad at all.

In fact, it's like that word, Tony The Tiger uses, 'G-r-r-r-r-reat.'
Redmond did great, too.

"They played a good ballgame," said Kathy Macri, South Highline National manager. "They did great. Brandon (Scott) pitched a great game for us. The guys did really good."

Just one of those games where the final score is not indicative of the closeness of the game as this one was a 3-1 ballgame through five innings of the seven inning game and it took until the top of the fourth for either team to score. Redmond put three on the scoreboard then. A single, steal, and an RBI double made it 1-0. Then, a fly ball that was a tough catch, in the sun, but still dropped by a fielder who was hurt on the play for a run. And, a RBI off a fielder's choice led to another Redmond run, making it 3-0 for the foe.

In the bottom of the fourth, National came back, showing what they were all about in this tournament as they had won a 14-inning game, 7-6, Sunday, to open the action.

Then, a tough, well-pitched, Darren Peterson game became a 2-1 loss to this same Redmond team Tuesday. That sent them into the loser's bracket. After winning their next game, 8-4, Wednesday, they met up with Redmond again for the championship, needing to beat them twice to win it all.
So, the odds were against them.

But, with that 3-0 deficit, things looked like National could get on a roll further as Tommy Gracey sliced a nice single and Sam Maitland came to the plate to teammate dugout cheers of "Samuel, have a go."
Maitland's RBI single cut Redmond's lead to 3-1, on a good hustling run, beating the throw to first base in a dicey play where the "tie goes to the runner" rule came into play.

Saying that above cheer by teammates to Maitland in that productive at-bat is something the players picked up from watching another sport, soccer's World Cup.

"That's from soccer, they're saying that 'go' cheer," said Maitland. "Little accents we got going."

"Sammy drove in a run," said Macri. "He's been having a good tournament."

But Redmond kept on scoring with a big six runs on six hits sixth inning and that put this game away, making it a 9-1 score.

"They had a rally late, and they took advantage of it," said Robby Piovesan, the National catcher who sprung for balls pitched all tournament, stopping many balls that kept a lot of runners at bay on a base, not able to steal.

For the game, there were not many strikeouts. Both teams hit the ball, a couple for each side, but the hits for Redmond were the seeing-eye kind and the blasts by National players like a Cody Jones long shot to center field were backpedaled on and caught with gloves stretched high by Redmond fielders.

"Couldn't find a hole," said Piovesan. "Everything they hit would drop in, especially with runners in scoring position."

Macri was looking at the scorebook after the game, pointing out that her team left runners on base a lot of innings, two in the first inning, including one runner picked off first base by the pitcher. Then more left on in the fourth inning when National scored their one run but left a couple on base, too. And, in the fifth, the bases were left loaded for National. So that was all unfortunate.

"We struggled to get on base and we left the bases loaded," said Macri.
Of the hitting, Macri said, "Their placement of the ball was a little better than ours."

Scott really did pitch great for South Highline National as Macri noted earlier. Not his lapse at all in the game for why things, suddenly, in the fourth, went wrong.

Hurting a lot was a fourth inning top half base-running error for National when a runner was picked off first base. That effectively stopped a rally in the works cold in its tracks as two runners were left on base.

Then, right after that it really smarted for National when a player dropped a pop-up in the infield, and that error led to another run for Redmond in the inning that broke the 0-0 tie.

"We had some costly errors in the game," said Scott. " And, it felt like the strike zone got smaller and smaller as the game went along."

All that said, it's just baseball, things happen, good and bad, and it was great that National got this far in the tournament with teams having come from all over the state, including Vancouver, the Kitsap Peninsula, Skagit Valley and Snohomish.

This National team had a lot of fun together and it showed by its cheering for each other throughout the tournament.

"Let's go, let's go," was one cheer. "Let's go, go, go, go."
Players echoed the 'go' word and that was good for rallying them to take the lead in the game against District 8 out of Ballard/Shoreline during that 14-inning, three-hour marathon win Sunday.

Matt Forbes was the youngest member on the team, 16, with the rest 17 and 18 year olds, and, he just turned 16 in time to be able to play on the team. So, almost 15, with the older kids heading off to college like Jones to the University of Arizona and Gracey to Central Washington University.

"They took me in like I was 17 or 18," said Forbes.

Manager Macri mentioned that her team came from different areas of District 7, from Des Moines, Normandy Park, Renton and West Seattle, with the dominant portion from the South Highline National charter. Most attend, or graduated, from Mount Rainier High School.

"Over half my team was new this year. They did great, being new to our team, they didn't play with our players before so were getting used to how each other played."

All the players listened to Macri speak after the game one last time for the season and players enjoyed their coaches' work for them.
"They managed us well," said Andrew Stanton.

Susan Gracey, who coached for this team that was managed by Macri, really enjoyed being around these guys for this past season.

"We have a great team," said Gracey, voice almost starting to crack as she talked. "I'm going to miss these boys, not being around them, not doing this anymore."

And, after coach Gracey said that, the timing proved perfect, as Peterson, who threw a great game against Redmond a couple days earlier as aforementioned, came up to her.

"Thank you very much for the season," said Peterson.
"Yeah," said Gracey, as she watched Peterson walk away. "These guys were really fun to be around. Really great."

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