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Posts Tagged ‘Aiden O’Neill’

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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