First state title for the Mercer Island Little League baseball

The Mercer Island U-10 Little League team celebrates its first state title. - Contributed photo
The Mercer Island U-10 Little League team celebrates its first state title.
— image credit: Contributed photo

The Mercer Island 9-10 Little League baseball All-Stars capped an undefeated playoff tournament by capturing the Mercer Island Little League’s first Washington state championship on July 27.

The All-Stars ran the table by posting a 5-0 record at both state and during district play.

The double elimination state tournament included 13 district champions and was held in Vancouver, Wash.

The MI All-Stars faced the Asotin County Little League All-Stars from Clarkston during their first game. The Islander bats gave the team an early 6-0 lead, never looking back on its way to a 24-4 victory. David Emanuels hit a three-run home run and drove in five for the MI All-Stars. Eric Kim was 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles and five RBIs. Other hitting stars included Michael Bantle, Michael Petrie, Sam Pugel and Josh Stenberg, with three hits each.

In their second game, the MI All-Stars faced a strong team from the greater Richland Little League. After a pair of scoreless innings, the MI All-Stars struck with a run by Peter Lopes in the top of the third to take a 1-0 lead. Richland came right back in the bottom of the third with three runs on four hits to take a 3-1 lead. Trailing for the first time in the tournament, the Islanders responded with a two-out rally in the top of the fourth. Eric Kim walked, Noah Hsue followed with a pinch-hit single to center and Andrew Pickles walked. With the bases loaded and two outs, Bantle drilled the first pitch into the gap in right-center field and cleared the bases with a three-run double. MI took the lead 4-3, as Anthony Scalzo came in to relieve Bantle and retired the final five Richland batters in the fifth and sixth innings to end the game. MI added an insurance run in the sixth to make the final score 5-3.

The next opponent was the Capitol (Olympia) Little League All-Stars. The MI All-Stars played one of their best games of the tourney against the Capitol (Olympia) Little League All-Stars, as Josh Stenberg hurled a complete one-hit shutout game and the bats provided plenty of offense in a 10-0 victory. Emanuels led the team by going 3-for-4 with a two-run double, while Scalzo went 2-for-3, including a double and two runs scored. Pugel was 2-for-4 with two doubles and two runs, and Hsue added a RBI double.

The only other undefeated team left in the tournament, the Kent Little League All-Stars, came calling next. Kent had defeated its previous opponents by a cumulative score of 37-3. With Bantle starting, the Islanders jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning only to see Kent respond with six runs of its own in the second inning. But the Mercer Island All-Stars tied the game, 6-6, at the end of five innings. The MI All-Stars eventually rallied for the winning run as Emanuels led off with a sharp single and Stenberg followed with a walk-off double to end the game, 7-6.

The Kent All-Stars rebounded to defeat Greater Richland, 8-7, and earned another shot at Mercer Island in the championship game. With Josh Stenberg starting on the mound, the Islanders jumped out to an early 6-0 lead after three innings. Kent got on the scoreboard with three runs off Stenberg in the bottom of the fourth to cut the deficit in half. The controversial fourth inning ended with a play at the plate as David Emanuels tagged out the would-be fourth run for Kent to end the inning. After a scoreless fifth inning, the MI All-Stars exploded for four runs in the top of the sixth to build a commanding 10-3 lead. MI closer Nathan Gallatin sealed the 10-5 victory and Mercer Island’s first Little League state championship.

For the tournament, Mercer Island batted .388 as a team and recorded a .469 on-base percentage (OBP), outscoring its opponents with a cumulative score of 56-18. Every player on the team recorded at least two hits and scored at least two runs during the tournament. Individual batting leaders included Josh Stenberg (.529 Average, .600 OBP, five doubles, a triple, six RBIs, eight runs scored), David Emanuels (.500 Average, .550 OBP, three doubles, a triple, HR, nine RBIs, eight runs), Sam Pugel (.500 Average, .579 OBP, four doubles, six RBIs, seven runs), Eric Kim (.412 Average, .474 OBP, seven RBIs, five runs) and Michael Bantle (.350 Average, seven RBIs, seven runs). Bantle, Scalzo and Stenberg anchored the pitching staff that held opposing teams to an average of less than four hits per game and compiled a team ERA of 1.80.

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