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As expected, Reese’s first All Star experience ended last night one game short of our goal.  The Woodinville All Stars beat NESLL’s 10U squad 12-5 to advance to state.  Reese had a double and gave up three earned runs in 4 2/3 innings on the mound, but we needed to play a perfect game against that Woodinville team — and we didn’t.

One of my favorite traditions:

Reese had two goals this Little League seasons: (1) win the D8 championship; and (2) make the All-Star team.  Thanks to an epic collapse our Laurelhurst Lionettes came up short on the first one, but she easily achieved the second.  So far, however, her All-Star experience has been solid if unmemorable.  Some play in the outfield, a few hits, lots of walks and some wins against some less-than-stellar opposition.

That all changed last night, when her Northeast Seattle Little League All Stars took on Magnolia’s 10U team in a loser-out tournament game.

The game started off well enough and through four innings NESLL had an 8-3 lead.  But things got going a little sideways in the fifth.  NESLL starter (and Reese’s good buddy) Sammie Wright started losing control on the mound and Magnolia closed the gap to 8-4.  Then, with runners on second and third and only one out, coach Damien King gave the ball to Reese.

When the coach brought Reese in to pitch with the game on the line …

I had visions of red meat and a pack of wolves.

Uh, what?

Reese hadn’t pitched much (if at all) over the last month because of a broken finger and she had a dirty little secret — her delivery, during which time her back foot leaves the ground, was illegal.  I had visions of red meat and wolves in my head.  So did some other parents, one of whom was heard to lament “this isn’t fair to Reese.  It’s going to destroy her confidence.”   Nevertheless she gave it a go (as if she had a choice).

It didn’t go too well at first.

Both the inherited runners scored on singles to left field.  And when those hitters scored, the score was tied at 8-8.  Reese struck out two to end the inning, but when Magnolia’s Bella Klinner (Reese’s Spice teammate) struck out the side in the top of the sixth, I thought we were toast.  So did the Magnolia fans.  When Coach King sent Reese out to start the sixth, they actually cheered.

A bit premature, it turned out.

NESLL 10U came up with a dramatic 9-8 win.

Reese walked the first batter and, I’m told, Damien almost pulled her.  But she struck out the next two batters.   She then walked the next batter, threw a few wild pitches, and it was second and third, two outs, score tied.

Season on the line.  All the parents were there as well as several of Reese’s Spice teammates and three of her non-NESLL coaches.

You could cut the tension with a knife.  But Reese came up as big as she ever has.

Next batter: K’ed on three solid pitches.

After that the result seemed a fait accompli.  And when Sammie singled in the winning run with the bases loaded and no outs, a 9-8 victory was ours.

We celebrated afterwards with a nutritious dinner at Richard’s.

The only person more relieved than me was Rhonda, who almost had to leave the game she was so stressed.   Reese’s final line: 1 2/3 innings pitched, two hits, two earned runs, four walks and five K’s.  About average for an eleven-year old Little League pitcher, but good enough to get the W.

Afterwards, the NESLL families celebrated with burgers and shakes at Dick’s Drive In.  I mowed down two Deluxes and an order of fries — after that stress-fest, I thought I’d earned it.

Up next: Woodinville.  The odds are against us: they beat us last week 18-0 and we have to beat them twice to advance to State.  I’m not confident we have that kind of miracle up our collective sleeves.  But for this dad, anyway, it really doesn’t matter.   Last night’s game — and Reese’s clutch performance — will be with me for the rest of my days.

And we have the photos to prove it:

Yesterday, Finn and his Zeeks Pizza Pumas won the 2018 Northeast Seattle Little League American Division championship with a 4-1 win over the Slalom Consulting Panthers.  It was the second league title in as many years for Finn’s team, both of which I coached.

It wasn’t easy.

At the beginning of the season our team looked terrible — so terrible that my assistant and I feared we’d never win a game.  We did — in fact, we didn’t lose until our sixteenth game.  After we lost two in a row I guaranteed we’d never win another game.  Turns out we never lost another one.

Saturday’s game was a classic.   We were behind 1-0 through the third because we couldn’t get anyone across home plate against Panthers ace Tate Bagley — this, despite getting six runners on.   We rallied for two runs, however, in the bottom of the fourth to take a 2-1 lead.

Then Finn came in.

Our ace all season (final stats), he did not disappoint.  In three innings, he gave up one hit (a double to Bagley), struck out eight, walked two — and gave up no runs.  Dell Geyer added a two-run single in the bottom of the fifth to give us a three-run lead, and when Finn struck out the last batter, a 4-1 victory — and the league championship — were ours.   An emotional Finn; fellow Puma pitcher Sonny Marona, who threw three innings of one-run ball; and Bagley were all named game co-MVP’s.

Truth be told, it wasn’t my best coaching job: probably only 2-3 (at most) of our players actually improved.  And it wasn’t the easiest of seasons: I think we trailed in at least half our games and I think I aged at least five years.  But we found ways to win when we probably didn’t deserve to.

And that’s the stuff of champions.

A few more photos:

 

Today Reese and I joined her friend Emerson Gouk and her mom Jen out at North Shore Golf Course.  The occasion was the North Shore MINI Open, and for Reese, it was her first eighteen-hole round.

Reese did pretty well.  Her 102 score on what was probably a 3,000-yard layout was good enough for fifth place in an eleven-girl field.  (Asterisk: that 102 came with a few pickups after triple bogeys.)  She hit a number of excellent drives and shots, most notably a hole out from forty yards on the fourteenth hole.  (Unfortunately it was for bogey.)   Her big issue right now is her short game — particularly her chipping.

There’s a summer ahead to work on that.

Reese and I spent this past Memorial Day weekend in Wenatchee with her Seattle Spice 10U softball team.

It didn’t go well.

We lost all our games, the last three by a combined total of 66-5.

On the bright side, Reese pitched in her first select-level games.  She wasn’t great but she wasn’t bad, either.  And she was certainly better than the rest of our staff, none of whom could find the plate.

And I did get some decent photos: