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Posts Tagged ‘District 11’

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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Central Whidbey hurler Savina Wells gets down with her bad self. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

They’re off to Poulsbo.

After savaging visiting South Skagit 10-4 Monday, the Central Whidbey Little League Majors softball team has a ticket to the state tourney.

The Hammerheads, who are 17-2 and have outscored foes 292-90, are the District 11 champs.

Central Whidbey earned the banner by sweeping both of its foes during the All-Stars tourney, which was held at Coupeville’s Rhododendron Park.

After vanquishing Sedro-Woolley 12-5 Saturday, the Hammerheads delivered more of the same against Skagit.

And, while both rivals were able to pull players from two different teams in their town, Central Whidbey has been one team, one dream the whole way.

The Hammerheads did pick up some help when 6th grader Savina Wells, who had been playing with the CWLL juniors team, dropped back to her age group for the postseason.

After catching against Sedro, the lethal lead-off hitter strolled to the pitcher’s circle for Monday’s game.

And Wells was lights-out, until her body betrayed her.

She struck out six of the first seven hitters she faced, surrendering just a walk, and set the tone for the game.

“She was on fire; they weren’t going to hit her,” said CWLL coach Fred Farris.

But then fate took a bad turn in the bottom of the second inning for the Hammerheads, as Wells, legging out her second single on the night, badly twisted her ankle.

Unable to return to the circle, she was helped to the bench, where she continued to cheer for her team as they chased the title.

Game one starter Chloe Marzocca replaced Wells in the circle, keeping Skagit at bay the rest of the way, ripping off nine strikeouts across four innings of work.

Chloe did a great job under the circumstances,” Farris said. “Savina stayed on the bench and encouraged her teammates. Special young lady!”

Central Whidbey got on the scoreboard quickly, pushing across three runs in the bottom of the first, and never trailed.

Wells swatted a single, then scampered around the base-paths, using quicksilver steals to disrupt Skagit’s rhythm.

An Allison Nastali walk helped out, while Madison McMillan had the big hit in the inning, cracking a line drive RBI single to center.

Not content to stop there, the Hammerheads piled up two walks and two hits in the second, only to see Skagit somehow escape unscathed.

The visitors wouldn’t be so lucky over the next two innings, as Central Whidbey exploded for seven runs to put the game on ice.

In the third, Brionna Blouin bopped an RBI single, then celebrated at first as teammate Taylor Brotemarkle took advantage of a poor throw to join McMillan in scoring on the play.

The Hammerheads brought the big bats out in the fourth, drilling five hits, including a couple of extra-base specials.

The five-run inning started with Katie Marti showing off her eagle eyes en route to earning a walk, then the bats started poppin’.

Nastali and Mia Farris singled, McMillan went big time with a thunderous two-run triple, Marzocca rifled a double, and Blouin capped things with another RBI single.

Central Whidbey, which finished with 10 hits and seven walks, got something from all 12 players on the roster.

Wells, Nastali, Blouin, and McMillan smacked two hits apiece, while Mia Farris and Marzocca rounded out the hit parade.

Nastali spent the entire game getting on base, adding a pair of walks to her two hits.

Also snatching free passes were Teagan Calkins, Jada Heaton, Brotemarkle, Marti, and McMillan, who got plunked.

Blouin and McMillan had three RBI’s each, while Aleksia Jump and Mayleen Weatherford rounded out a diamond squad headed to state, which is set for June 29-July 6.

Solid team-wide performances like Monday’s bring a smile to their coach’s face.

Brionna caught a good game and snapped off several balls to Mia at first on moderate lead-offs, which sent a message to Skagit that they just needed to stay right where they were,” Fred Farris said.

“It was Katie’s birthday, so we shared ice cream with Skagit afterwards and she played well in center-field.”

As they have shown all season, the Hammerheads are an especially tight-knit group of players.

“The girls really wanted to win it, not just for themselves or the team, but for their injured teammate who was cheering them on and encouraging them through the icing and pain in the dugout,” Farris said.

“These young ladies really earned the title ‘district champs’; They work hard, support each other and play the game the right way.

“I couldn’t be prouder!”

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The Pineapple Ninjas.

The Pineapple Ninjas at rest. (Megan Somes photo)

Isabelle Wells enjoys a post-tourney milk shake. (Katy Wells photo)

Isabelle Wells enjoys a post-tourney milk shake. (Katy Wells photo)

Coaches (l to r) Mimi Johnson, Katy Wells and Lark Gustafson have led teams to back-to-back district titles.

Coaches (l to r) Mimi Johnson, Katy Wells and Lark Gustafson have led teams to back-to-back district titles.

(Jacque LaRue photos)

   Tracking down food, but never too busy to stop for a photo op. (Jacque LaRue photos)

Impromptu dance party.

Impromptu dance party.

"We'll be back to see you next year!!"

“We’ll be back to see you next year!!”

They’re building a tradition.

Back-to-back District 11 titles. Back-to-back trips to the state tournament.

With softball fever raging at every level in Coupeville, the younger generation is making a statement. They plan to keep the fire burning on the prairie.

And while the season may have ended Sunday for the Central Whidbey Little League 9/10 All-Star softball sluggers — the Pineapple Ninjas dropped a close 14-11 game to East Seattle in Vancouver — the afterglow of the season will last for a long time.

As she prepared to pull her players back out of the swimming pool and head home, Central Whidbey coach Mimi Johnson was justifiably proud.

The Pineapple Ninjas don’t have the huge base of players that the big-city teams draw from, but they have pluck like no one’s business.

“Girls did great!,” Johnson said. “We battled!!”

And guess what, big-city teams?

They’ll be back and they’ll keep getting better and going deeper in these tournaments.

Central Whidbey softball is on the rise, across every age division, across every team.

Little League to high school, they are getting stronger, more confident, and their belief in themselves, as individual players and as a unit, grows with every day, every play.

They go by many names.

The Pineapple Ninjas, the Sizzlin’ Sisters, the Venom, and then, one day, they all become Wolves.

And the howl of success that is sweeping the prairie never stops echoing.

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