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Posts Tagged ‘Central Whidbey Little League’

Madison McMillan and Co. ruled the softball diamond this spring. (Jackie Saia photo)

They got by with a little help from their friends.

Central Whidbey Little League sent two softball teams to the state tournament this spring, with their juniors squad, which finished fourth, a joint effort with North Whidbey Little League.

Both teams benefited immensely from the support of the local community, with numerous Whidbey businesses helping defer costs for players and families to travel off-Island.

“This was an amazing experience for 28 of these Whidbey Island young athletes!,” said juniors coach Fred Farris. “The memories will live with them for years to come.

“Both teams represented CW, NW, and District 11 admirably, both on and off the field, during their respective tournaments, against the best teams in the state, and we couldn’t be prouder of their hard work and excellent sportsmanship.”

Additional support was garnered through car washes and a GoFundMe page.

 

Businesses which supported the softball teams on their state tourney journey:

A+ Glass
Acorn Dental Clinic
Allure
Aqua Gifts
Ashley’s Design
BayLeaf
Cascade Custom Homes & Design
Dominoes
Ebey Academy
Enchanted Beedle
Flyers Restaurant and Brewery
Front Street Grill
Front Street Realty
Harmony Vet
Island Quality Construction
Iverson Insurance
Kapaw’s
Kingfisher Books
Land Title & Escrow
Laurie Black
Leisure Yacht Charters
Little Two Cottages
Main Street Collision
My Sister’s Closet
NAPA Auto Parts
OLF Storage
Pacific Indoor Tactical
Party City
PC Red Apple Market
Penn Cove Vet
Pizza Factory
Poppies
Prada Styles & Cuts
Quilters Workshop
Red’s Construction & Roofing
Salon Blue
Snakelum Point Investments
Sunshine Drip
Terra Firma Wealth Management
Toby’s Tavern
Touch of Dutch
Whidbey Natural Pet
Whidbey/Humphrey Sign
Whimsies
Windermere Property Management
Windermere Realty – Coupeville
Windytide
Wood Bee Custom Carpentry

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Coupeville’s Chelsi Stevens steps into the batter’s box at the state tourney. (Kristi Stevens photos)

The pride of Whidbey.

They fought until the final batter.

When the season started, the Central Whidbey Little League minors softball squad had just four girls with prior experience.

Jump ahead to this past weekend, and the core of that squad, joined by three players from Oak Harbor and one from Anacortes, stood tall at the state tourney in Auburn.

Now known as the Whidbey Island All-Stars, they faced off with two teams which drew players from big cities, and fell 19-4 Saturday and 34-24 Sunday (not a misprint – a real score).

The opening game pitted Whidbey against Lake City, which pulls players from 13 leagues including Everett and Marysville.

The Islanders hung tough through the first two innings, trailing just 5-2, but the big city brawlers broke the game open after that, taking advantage of walks.

While Whidbey lost, acting coach Mike Peters came away happy with how his players hustled while in the field.

“The highlights for our squad were defensive plays in this game,” he said. “The team did the little things we talk about.

“Throw to correct bases, hit the cut-offs with solid throws, and not make ‘little league errors’.”

Game two, against Glenwood Little League from Vancouver, was an offensive extravaganza which lasted four-plus hours.

Down 15-2, Whidbey roared back by dropping 12 runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second.

Running wild on the base-paths, the Islanders flustered their opponents, cutting the deficit all the way back to 15-14.

Glenwood recovered its composure, however, pushing the lead out to 34-14 — but that just lit a spark in Whidbey’s players.

“(Coach) Lark (Gustafson) and I challenged the team — they would need to get 11 runs at least to keep playing,” Peters said. “Well, the team rallied to make a run at the needed runs.”

Five straight walks got things going, before Ava Carpenter ripped a two-run single.

Following hot on her heels, Ava Lucero laid down “a perfect suicide down the first-base line to drive in another run,” before Haylee Armstrong flexed her biceps, and her wheels.

Hitting with the bases juiced, Armstrong crashed a line drive to center for a bases-clearing grand slam home run, easily the biggest blow of the day.

“Didn’t clear the fences, but with her speed she was rounding second before the other team even got to the ball,” Peters said.

Staying hot, Whidbey used a mix of walks and base-knocks from Sydney Van Dyke, Gracie Wallin, Adeline Maynes, and Carpenter to trim the final margin in half.

“You could actually see the belief in all the girls we could do this,” Peters said. “Heard a positive remark from the Glenwood manager — “Man, this team just won’t quit”.”

That’s a trait the Whidbey coaching staff, led by Aaron Lucero, preached all season.

While papa Lucero had a prior commitment which kept him from traveling with the team to Auburn, the squad was in good hands with Mike Peters, Gustafson, and Sofia Peters calling the shots.

“This is a great group of ladies who really dedicated their time to be better athletes,” Aaron Lucero said. “The parents have been fantastic and supportive of the team and program we would like to see develop.

“Our overarching theme this year has been “do the little things.” We built on that and added “win the pitch” to postseason preparation,” he added. “The team really took that to heart and pushed themselves.”

Making the jump from inexperience — not a single player had pitched prior to this season — to the big dance is a huge step on the path to continued success.

“There is no substitute for experience, and I’m proud the team developed to the point that they could represent Whidbey with pride,” Aaron Lucero said. “This is a young team and we will be back to state.

“The most important part to me as a coach and father is that all of these players have voiced their love for the sport, a desire to succeed, and are willing to put the work in to excel.

“I want this attitude to be contagious among their peers and younger players, and grow the program through action, attitudes, and of course, success.”

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After a tough loss, the Whidbey Island All-Star juniors softball squad is ready to sprint back into action at the state tourney. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

They can still win a title.

Saturday’s opener at the state tourney in Vancouver didn’t end the way the Whidbey Island All-Star juniors softball squad wanted, as it lost a late lead and fell 12-11 to Camas.

But the big dance is a double-elimination tourney, and with short memories and blazing bats, the Inferno can fight their way back.

The road to redemption begins Sunday afternoon, when Whidbey plays a loser-out game against South Hill Little League of Puyallup.

Win there, and the Inferno return to action Monday.

Keep coming out on top and they could play all the way through July 15.

It won’t be an easy path at this point, with Whidbey needing six straight wins across five days to claim a state title.

But, if the Inferno come out like they did for the first four-and-a-half innings Saturday, it’s not an impossible dream.

Facing the tourney hosts, Whidbey jumped on Camas early, building a 4-0 lead after an inning and a half, eventually stretching the lead all the way out to 10-4 headed into the bottom of the fifth.

Haylee Burleigh got things started early, whacking a triple to right in the top of the first, before scooting home on an RBI single off the bat of Savina Wells.

Madison McMillan followed Wells to the plate, bopping a run-scoring double to center, and the Inferno were heating up.

A double from Loto Tupu and a single to short from Adyson Morales set the table in the second, with Payton Ludemann bringing both of her teammates around to score on a shot to right.

Up 4-0 and cruising, Whidbey hit a brief bump in the bottom of the second, however, allowing Camas to crawl back in the game and tie things up.

But, as quickly as the hosts showed a bit of life, the Inferno returned to issuing a beat-down.

Three runs in the third, and another three-spot in the fourth, while Wells was firing BB’s from the pitcher’s circle, put Whidbey in a pleasant position.

The Inferno were getting contributions from everyone on the roster — 11 of 13 players collected a hit in the opener — and many of the base-knocks were of the extra-base variety.

Coupeville’s Katie Marti crunched an RBI double in the third, while Oak Harbor’s Layla Suto and Tupu crashed back-to-back one-out three-baggers in the fourth.

And there could have been more.

Up 10-4, the Inferno stranded Tupu at third, starting their only dry stretch of the afternoon — a run of nine straight batters who went down from the end of the fourth inning through the start of the seventh.

Given a reprieve, Camas dug deep and scratched out five runs in the bottom of the fifth to get all the way back to 10-9.

The fatal blow was a bases-loaded triple from Papermaker slugger Kallie True, but the Inferno  promptly picked her off third to end the inning and strand the tying run.

Camas had found its groove, unfortunately, and pushed two more runs across in the bottom of the sixth to claim the lead for the first time all day.

Though trailing 11-10, Whidbey came up huge on defense for a second-straight inning, with McMillan pulling off an unassisted double play on a liner to third to end the bleeding.

Down to their final two outs, the Inferno proved plucky and then some.

Bringing an end to her team’s run of nine straight outs, Tupu whacked a one-out single, with Taylor Brotemarkle following with a hit of her own.

Getting crafty, Whidbey used a bunt to bring the tying run home, with Morales artfully using her bat to drop the ball with perfection.

A Ludemann single loaded the bags, but this time it was Camas which escaped, as it pulled off its own double play on a liner, with the ball flying to first base this time around.

The Inferno came a single out from sending the game to extra innings, only to see the Papermakers drop in the game-breaking hit in the bottom of the seventh.

True singled, stole second, went to third on a fielder’s choice, then came home with the winning run on a walk-off RBI single from Ainsley Schweitzer.

Whidbey’s hit parade was led by Tupu, who collected three base-knocks, including a double and triple.

Burleigh, Wells, McMillan, and Brotemarkle each had two hits, while Teagan Calkins, Suto, Morales, Marti, Ludemann, and Lilly Norman netted one apiece.

Jada Heaton and Mia Farris rounded out the active roster, with Heaton collecting Whidbey’s lone walk on the afternoon – courtesy of getting hit by a pitch.

Wells went the distance for the Inferno, whiffing five, with 80 of her 127 pitches being strikes.

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Sofia and Mike Peters have formed a strong daughter/father coaching duo this season. (Photo courtesy Paula Peters)

Like father, like daughter.

As the Central Whidbey Little League minors softball squad has progressed this season — it started with only four girls with prior experience, yet has earned a trip to state — a unique coaching experience has played out.

The team’s coaching staff includes a father/daughter combo, with Mike and Sofia Peters working together to help shape the future of Coupeville’s diamond dandies.

The duo have worked together before, but in coach-player mode, with Mike helping shepherd Sofia and her teammates from rookie ball through juniors.

Now that his daughter is a high school player — she was a sophomore on this year’s CHS squad, which went a pristine 12-0 in Northwest 2B/1B League play — the relationship is different, yet still just as close.

“We still talk the game all the time,” Mike Peters said. “When coaching Sofia, it was more sharing the knowledge and guiding her to help herself and the team.

“Coaching with Sofia is more of a collaboration,” he added. “I enjoy listening to some of my phrases I used when I coached her, that she now tells her players.”

Coming off her first season on the high school diamond — the pandemic cancelled her freshman campaign — Sofia Peters has adapted quickly to the other side of the coach/player relationship.

It’s a natural progression for her as she follows in her father’s footsteps, and one she would like to continue.

“I love softball and I really want to go to college to be an elementary school teacher,” she said. “So I thought coaching young softball players would be a really good way for me to be involved with both.

“I’m definitely going to coach again, whether it’s after, or during my own playing career,” Sofia added. “This was so fun and I really loved being out there coaching, and helping the girls learn and succeed.”

As the CHS junior-to-be has adapted to the role, it’s made for a lot of proud papa moments.

“Watching Sofia teach other players,” has been the best part for Mike Peters as the season has progressed.

“She actually takes the time with each player, no matter their playing level,” he added.

Seeing younger players make the same progress which she has shown on the diamond is huge, Sofia Peters said.

“The best part of coaching for me has been two things. One being seeing how the girls have developed and changed from our very first practice till now.

“And two is when a player gets excited because they finally did the thing they have been working on doing,” she added. “That can be anywhere from pitching a perfect strike to remembering to creep in the infield.”

As her first season as a coach nears its end, Sofia Peters is aglow with her player’s successes, and wants her young charges to depart with more softball knowledge than they had when they arrived at the first practice.

“Honestly, I hope they learn literally anything from me,” she said. “It could be something to do with actually playing or just about life in general.

“But, if I had to be specific it would be that practicing how you play really matters.”

Coaching has given Sofia Peters a different view of the game, allowing her to better appreciate what her dad and other coaches have tried to teach her.

“There are a few differences in coaching with my dad than playing for him, but the main one that comes to mind is when I was playing for him he always told me what to do,” she said. “And told me how I should play.

“But coaching with him, that’s what he wants me to do for the girls. He wants me to be a role model and he wants me to teach them what he taught me.”

The CWLL minors squad has benefited from a deep coaching bench this season, led by Aaron Lucero and Lark Gustafson.

Sofia Peters, Ana Valencia, and Scott Maynes have also helped, with Mike Peters stepping in to help as the team heads to state.

Lucero has a prior commitment which will prevent him from accompanying his team to Auburn for the big dance, but he’s left the team in capable hands.

For Mike Peters, the goal is to continue building on what has already been accomplished.

“With a young team, to move forward in team sports it is a combination of coaching and girls who want to learn,” he said. “Aaron creates a program that is easy to follow and learn from.

“It is a consistent program. His motto is “the little things,” Mike Peters added. “The girls for the most are growing from that.

“(We just want to) play our game. Minimize little league mistakes as we call it. Make the other team beat you. Just don’t make it easy for the other team.

“Biggest message I can give the team — enjoy the moment.”

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“We’re going to state!”

Buy a water, help local softball players.

The Central Whidbey Little League minors diamond dandies are off to the state tourney, but need help raising funds for the trip.

Players will be selling water at Oak Harbor’s 4th of July Parade, which starts Sunday at 11 AM along Bayshore Drive.

Donations will also be accepted, and all money goes towards the player’s food and hotel stay in Auburn.

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