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Registration for a new season of Central Whidbey Little League softball and baseball action kicks off December 1. (Jackie Saia photo)

Spring is right around the corner.

Must be, as the promise of a new season of baseball and softball action is upon us.

Registration for Central Whidbey Little League opens Sunday, December 1, and you can save $10 through an “Early Bird” special if you sign up before Jan. 15.

For more info and to get in ahead of the crowd, pop over to:

https://www.centralwhidbeylittleleague.com/Default.aspx?tabid=945573

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Camden Glover was superb on the mound Friday for Central Whidbey Little League, whiffing 11 batters in a one-run game. (Photo courtesy Stevie Glover)

Not the end, the beginning. (Carron Chernobieff photo)

The season ended, not with a whimper, but with a mighty roar.

The Central Whidbey Little League Majors baseball team may have come out on the short end of a 3-2 thriller Friday with arch-rival South Whidbey, but the Wolves walked off the field at Oak Harbor’s Windjammer Park having fully earned the respect of everyone in attendance.

Playing its fourth contest in five days, and a third-straight elimination game, Central Whidbey came dangerously close to upending its highly-touted foes and advancing to the title game of the District 11 All-Star tournament.

The loss left the Wolves with a 12-8 record on the season, including a 2-2 mark this week as they captured 3rd place in a six-team tourney.

South Whidbey, 3-1 in tournament play, advances to face Burlington (3-0) and its 6-foot-3 pitching ace Saturday afternoon.

The future Falcons have to win twice against the off-Islanders to claim the double-elimination tourney title and a trip to state.

While Central Whidbey won’t be going to the big dance this season, the only team in the tourney to have drawn its players from just one regular-season team fought like the dickens.

And Friday’s finale, while bittersweet, was huge, as the Wolves pulled a 180-degree turn from how they played when they lost to South Whidbey in Monday’s tourney opener.

That game was 6-0, but it felt more like 200-0, as the first 11 Central Whidbey hitters struck out and the team could do little offensively.

Friday night was a different tale, and it started with CWLL coach Jon Roberts winning the coin flip and snatching home field advantage for his squad.

Charging out of a different dugout then on Monday, the Wolves responded much like the squad which KO’d Sedro-Woolley and Anacortes in back-to-back elimination games Wednesday and Thursday night.

Camden Glover strode to the mound as Central’s starting pitcher, and he was as good as any hurler has been in this tourney.

After carefully parceling out innings between their pitchers in previous games, the Wolf coaching staff was able to sit back and watch one blossom into a full-on ace on this sunny, slightly windy evening.

Glover dominated, whiffing the side in the top of the first and eventually finishing with 11 K’s in just under five innings of work.

He had a one-hit shutout through four innings, and gave his team a fighting chance against a very-solid South Whidbey lineup.

The few times Glover let the ball get into play in the early going, his defense was there to immediately clamp down on any and everything.

First-baseman Landon Roberts made a nice scoop and dash to the bag on one unassisted play, then stretched out to pull in a throw coming in hot from shortstop Chase Anderson on a hard-hit grounder.

But, as good as Glover was, he was matched by South Whidbey’s main man on the mound, Kasen Parsell.

The precise and powerful rival hurler escaped danger twice, got nicked once, then got progressively stronger as the game played out.

Central Whidbey got on the base-paths much quicker this time around, with lead-off hitter Jack Porter slashing a shot to the side of the shortstop, then bolting to first to beat the incoming throw.

One out later, Anderson zinged a base-knock to center, followed by a passed ball which put Wolves at second and third with just one out.

It wasn’t to be, however, as Parsell bore down and rang up back-to-back strikeouts, then turned around and dodged another bullet in the bottom of the second.

That time, the Wolves used a single from John Rachal and a walk to Jordan Bradford to once again put two runners aboard, only to see it come to naught.

Rachal’s thunderous hit could have been extra bases, should have been extra bases, but the South Whidbey shortstop made a superb dive to snare the ball.

While he couldn’t get back to his feet in time to nail Rachal, who was churning down the line like mad, it did limit the Wolf slugger to just one base.

Central’s second attempt at a rally died a premature death when Parsell blew the ball past a Central slugger for an inning-ending out, but the feeling in the air was different than it had been on Monday.

And it paid off in the bottom of the third, an inning in which the Wolves didn’t get a hit, but still scored both of their runs.

Aiden O’Neill opened the frame by taking a wayward pitch off his body, earning hoots and hollers of appreciation from the Central Whidbey Little League softball players in attendance.

A booted ball on a hard skipper off Anderson’s bat put two runners aboard for the third straight time, while an error on a liner by Johnny Porter finally brought the game’s first score around.

Looking for an insurance run, Glover dropped the prettiest sacrifice bunt imaginable.

The ball plopping off his bat, it crawled down the first-base line, staying well fair, as Anderson came streaking across the plate before a single South Whidbey fielder could get close to the wobbling orb.

The game remained 2-0 until the top of the fifth, Glover and Parsell going mano a mano, bobbing and weaving, fastballs blazing into their respective catcher’s mitt time and again.

But South Whidbey is a very good team, one with a roster filled with state tournament veterans, and they did what good teams do – found a way to win.

A single and a hit batter put two aboard in the fifth, while Glover’s 11th strikeout and a strong catch in center by Jack Porter slapped two outs on the scoreboard.

With the game hanging in the balance, and parents on both sides hyperventilating, South Whidbey’s #3 and #4 hitters, Parsell and Grady Davis, came through in the clutch.

Back-to-back doubles, with the second one plating the tying and go-ahead runs, were a crippler for Central Whidbey, and justifiable cause for an explosion of cheering from the visitor’s bench.

The Wolves swapped out Glover for closer Chase “The Magic Man” Anderson at that point, and he ended the inning on a strikeout.

But not before South Whidbey’s coach made a classy gesture, walking towards Glover as he headed out to replace Anderson at shortstop, leaning in and telling the tired Wolf pitcher, “You pitched a great game. A great game.”

While Parsell deserved the win, retiring the final nine Wolves he faced in order, Glover’s performance, coming in a pressure-packed game on the biggest stage he’s been on, should not be forgotten.

His season, and the ones put together by teammates Marcelo Gebhard, Jack Porter, Bradford, Alex Smith, Jacob Schooley, Rachal, Johnny Porter, O’Neill, Anderson, and Roberts, were marked by wins and big plays.

But also by resilience, hard work and a willingness to sacrifice for each other and the good of the team.

It was a season to remember, and a finale which offers much promise for the future of Coupeville baseball.

Friday’s bout, simply put, was everything you hope to see in an elimination game.

One side walks away a bit happier, yes, but, on the first night of the tourney where there was just one game being played, both teams rose to the moment.

As they go forward, barring family moves, or athletes choosing soccer in the spring (boo! hiss! and boo again!), many of these players should face off time and again on the diamond as they age from eager little league players to grizzled high school veterans.

Whether they were a “winner” or a “loser” Friday night, may they never forget this game.

A night when both teams, and every player, fought with everything they had and exited having shown respect for themselves, their opponents, and the game itself.

Win or lose, this wasn’t an end for anyone. It’s just the beginning.

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With another win Thursday, Central Whidbey is still alive at the district tourney. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Call them the eliminators.

Bouncing back nicely after opening the District 11 tourney with a loss, the Central Whidbey Little League Majors baseball squad is now handing out KO’s on a regular basis.

Thursday night it required a late rally by the Wolves, but they escaped with a 6-4 victory over Anacortes, eliminating the boys in purple.

Coming on the heels of a win Wednesday which sent Sedro-Woolley home, Central Whidbey has knocked out two of the three teams no longer playing.

Now, to keep the streak alive, the Wolves will need to find an answer for South Whidbey, the team which beat them 6-0 back in that Monday opener.

The rematch goes down 6 PM Friday at Oak Harbor’s Windjammer Park, and the stakes are high.

With both Whidbey teams sitting at 2-1 in the double-elimination royal rumble, the loser Friday is done, joining Sedro, Anacortes, and North Whidbey on the sideline.

Win the all-Island showdown, however, and you get to advance to play another day, facing Burlington (3-0 in the tourney) Saturday, and maybe Sunday.

While guaranteed a top-three finish, the plucky Wolves, now 12-7 on the season, still have their eyes set on the big prize — the district title and a trip to the state tournament.

To get there, they’ll need to show the same kind of grit they did against Anacortes.

Down 4-3, four outs away from seeing its season end, Central Whidbey rallied for three two-out runs in the bottom of the fifth against a tiring rival hurler.

While the Wolves mixed and matched, using five different pitchers in a bid to keep pitch counts low and save as many arms as possible, Anacortes went with the same ace all the way to his limit of 85 pitches.

And he almost made it, until Central Whidbey pulled off a bit of magic.

With Jack Porter on the base-paths and two outs in the fifth, the Wolves got daring, then lucky, as the lanky outfielder stole second, then scampered to third on a wild pitch.

A walk to Aiden O’Neill, whose pitching performance saved Central earlier in the game, put two runners aboard, and then it was time for the magic man to do what he does so well.

We’re speaking of Chase Anderson, a young man who has already mastered almost every position on the field, while charging through life with a near-constant grin on his face.

That grin blossomed into a mammoth smile after he poked a ball back through the infield, rolling it just wide of the pitcher, yet also too far away for the hard-charging second-baseman to be able to make a play.

Anderson hit the bag at first, Porter slashed across home plate with the tying run, and a group of Central Whidbey softball players, back from their own trip to the state tournament, went bonkers down the third-base line.

Or at least partially bonkers, as the big explosion came a moment later, as Johnny Porter followed Anderson to the plate and promptly lofted a game-deciding two-run single to right field.

In a small slice of time, a game on the line, a contest where the Wolves destiny hung in the balance, became a completely new ballgame.

Over in the stands, legendary former CHS athletes Ema Smith and Lindsey Roberts nodded slightly, gave small fist pumps and looked at each other, the unspoken thought being shared a simple one.

“Just the way we would have done it.”

From that moment, Anacortes was done, baby, done. All that was left was merely a formality.

On the hill headed into the top of the sixth, now with a two-run lead, was Anderson, the team’s fire-baller who had shut down the rivals in the fifth.

With faint strains of Enter Sandman possibly wafting on the wind, the Wolf hurler whiffed the first batter, then got a great defensive play from two teammates for out number two.

Marcelo Gebhard went to his knees to knock down a chopper, plucked the ball out of the dirt, and pegged a throw to first-baseman Landon Roberts, who went all Stretch Armstrong to snare the orb and beat the runner by half a step.

“I think he just ripped every single muscle in his body,” murmured mom Sherry Roberts.

“Exactly the way I taught him,” interjected grandpa Rick Bonacci from behind his daughter.

Perhaps as a reward, perhaps as a way to keep pitch counts down, perhaps just as a way to make sure all of Landon’s body parts were still in working order, CWLL coach Jon Roberts handed the ball to his son to get the 18th and final out.

Done deal, as Landon got the first hitter he faced to slap a soft liner right back into his mitt. Squeeze the ball, do a little hop, and on to Friday.

Before everyone got to the Wolf-friendly finale, the game had been a smartly-played back-and-forth affair.

Jordan Bradford got the nod as Central Whidbey’s starting pitcher, and he was on fire in the top of the first.

Charging back from a 3-0 count, he whiffed the lead-off hitter, then snagged back-to-back come-backers to the mound.

Feeling the electricity in the air, the Wolves plated two runs in the first, thanks to a booming single from Jack Porter, a perfectly-placed bunt single from O’Neill, and a long sac fly off of Anderson’s bat.

And then the offense hit a slow-down for a bit, as the next eight Wolf hitters went down without anyone getting on base.

That dry period, from midway through the first until the end of the third, gave Anacortes a chance to regain the lead, and it did, pushing across two runs in both the second and third innings.

Central Whidbey kept things from getting too out of hand thanks to a great backpedaling catch by Roberts, who snagged a runaway ball as it drifted over first, then did his version of a somersault while still somehow holding on to the ball.

Also coming up huge was O’Neill, who went to the pitcher’s mound and inherited a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the third and lived to tell about it.

He induced a 6-2-5 double play from the first batter he faced, with Anderson pegging the ball to Johnny Porter at the plate for one out, before the Wolf catcher spun and fired a shot to Camden Glover at third to nail another runner.

Overall, O’Neill racked up two scoreless innings at an extremely crucial time, setting up Anderson and Roberts to deliver the one-two knockout punch at the end.

With Anacortes held at bay, the Wolves cut the lead from 4-2 back to 4-3 in the bottom of the fourth.

Anderson led off with a single which dropped in between the first-baseman and right-fielder, then eventually came around to score on a passed ball.

That set up the sweet finale, and left Jon Roberts with a relieved smile on his face.

“Well, after I looked over the books, I am actually very pleased with many things,” he said. “We found a way to wake up the bats and adjust to a mid-speed pitcher with little control.”

Central Whidbey racked up seven hits and three walks on the night, with Anderson and Jack Porter leading the way with two singles apiece.

O’Neill, Roberts, and Johnny Porter added base-knocks, with Glover, O’Neill, and Bradford earning free passes.

There would have been an eighth hit, but John Rachal was flat-out robbed.

Riding a hot streak at the plate, he belted a shot to deep left his first time at bat, only to see the Anacortes fielder run it down and make a superb catch.

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Landon Roberts digs down deep to find a few extra MPH on his fastball. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Stealing bases when the other team isn’t looking is kind of our thing.

“Just the way I taught him!”

“Ehhh, it’s kinda cold and slimy down here…”

“I have to wash those pants??!?”

Spoiler alert: John Rachal hit the ball pretty darn far on this swing.

“My big brother can throw harder than your big brother. Just you wait…”

“Oh, it’s true. Prepare to taste hot death, my friend!”

Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays the paparazzi from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

So John Fisken dodged the many, many raindrops Wednesday in Oak Harbor to snap pics as the District 11 baseball tourney played out across multiple fields at Windjammer Park.

The photos above capture the only game we really care about here in Coupeville, the one in which Central Whidbey swatted Sedro-Woolley 10-1.

To see everything he shot as the Wolf diamond men kept their playoff dream alive, pop over to:

https://www.johnsphotos.net/Sports/Coupeville-baseball-2018-2019/CWLL-Majors-2019-07-01-vs-Sedro/

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Swinging hot bats, Central Whidbey pounded out 10 hits Wednesday as it beat Sedro-Woolley 10-1 in the district playoffs. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The season rolls on.

Overcoming slashing rain and a muddy field at Oak Harbor’s Windjammer Park Wednesday, the Central Whidbey Little League Majors baseball squad kept its playoff dream alive.

Two days after whiffing 16 times in a loss to South Whidbey in the opener of the District 11 tourney, the Wolves bounced back, shredding Sedro-Woolley 10-1.

Along the way, Central Whidbey racked up 10 base-knocks and eight walks, while its pitchers combined to hurl 11 strikeouts.

The win lifts CWLL to 11-7 on the season, and guarantees the team at least one more game.

Central Whidbey returns to Oak Town Thursday, when it will play either Anacortes or North Whidbey in a 6 PM loser-out game.

Anacortes was up 21-9 in the top of the sixth Wednesday when darkness halted play in that game.

Another victory Thursday, and the Wolves play Friday against either South Whidbey or Burlington-Edison.

The tourney will crown a champ either Saturday or Sunday, with that team punching its ticket to the state tourney.

There were two big questions hanging in the muggy air Wednesday night.

One, would it rain and how much?

The answer, of course it would rain – this is summer on Whidbey Island, and a lot, with sheets of rain turning the area around home plate into a pig’s dream and forcing one extended rain delay and several mini-breaks.

The second question, would Central Whidbey’s bats regain their pop?

The answer, of course they would.

Chase Anderson spanked three hits, Jack Porter and John Rachal walloped two apiece, while Landon Roberts, Alex Smith, and Johnny Porter each added a base-knock.

Central Whidbey collected three doubles, with the biggest blow, by far, erupting off the bat of Rachal.

Swinging out of his shoes, he laced an RBI double which took a big skip, then slammed off the wall in straight-away center field, wowing both his appreciative fan club and the normally unflappable pros in the press box.

And yet, while the final score looks like a blowout, the game was actually a nail-biter until the bottom of the third inning.

Or, about an hour-and-a-half after the game’s first pitch.

Central Whidbey had scraped out a run in the bottom of the first and another in the second to stake itself to a 2-1 lead.

The first Wolf to skid across a very-slick home plate was lead-off hitter Jack Porter, who smoked a single to left-center, then took second thanks to an obstruction call on Sedro’s first-baseman, who wandered in a daze right into the baseline.

With Porter rocking back and forth on the bag, teammate Chase Anderson promptly popped a one-out RBI single to right to get the first click of the night from the scoreboard operator.

While Sedro escaped further damage, ending the inning by nailing a runner at the plate, the damage had been done.

The off-Islanders got their only run in the top of the second thanks to a very-wet ball squirting away from Wolf fielders on one wild ‘n wacky play, but starting pitcher Camden Glover was otherwise untouchable.

He whiffed three in two innings of work, while his catcher, Johnny Porter, threw out both runners who dared to try and run on his cannon of an arm.

Walks to Glover and Jordan Bradford, packaged around a Rachal single which managed to evade three different Sedro fielders, juiced the bags in the bottom of the second, before Aiden O’Neill effectively won the game by sacrificing his body.

Taking a pitch off of his heel, his free pass the hard way forced in Central’s second run, the only other one it would need on the night.

Not that the Wolves were content to stop with a 2-1 lead, instead putting together an 11-batter, six-run outburst in the third.

It started with Johnny Porter skedaddling down the line to first after a dropped third strike, and ended with a bang-bang play at the plate which was one of the few things to go Sedro’s way during the inning.

In between, there were a couple walks, hard choppers which produced runs from Marcelo Gebhard, Smith, and Anderson, and a dramatic two-run double to left from Jack Porter.

Tack on two more runs in the fourth, thanks to Rachal’s big-time blast, and an RBI single from Smith, and the game came dangerously close to being called short thanks to the mercy rule.

And mercy was something Central Whidbey didn’t display, as its pitchers methodically shut down Sedro after the one lucky run.

Glover (three K’s) was followed to the (muddy) mound by Bradford (1), Jack Porter (3), Roberts (2), and Anderson (2) and all kept the ball popping into the mitt.

Along with Wolf catcher Johnny Porter gunning down runners left and right, Central Whidbey got solid defensive plays from first-basemen Roberts and O’Neill.

Roberts stretched out his frame to its last possible inch to snag one throw coming in hot and low.

After replacing him at first, O’Neill made a nice play on a wicked grounder, knocking the skidding ball into the mud, then plucking it out and beating the madly-scrambling hitter to the bag.

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