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The 11U baseball took second at the District 9 baseball tournament. Team members, front row, from left: Nelson Hayes, Steven Woolston, Alex Bell, Derek Sims, Carl Bell, Peter Allenbaugh and Peter Williams. Second row, from left: Coach Jim Hibbert, Brandon Lawler, Max Hibbert, Teddy Van der Velden, Nick Taylor, Aidan Plummer and Manager Earl Bell. - Contributed photo
The 11U baseball took second at the District 9 baseball tournament. Team members, front row, from left: Nelson Hayes, Steven Woolston, Alex Bell, Derek Sims, Carl Bell, Peter Allenbaugh and Peter Williams. Second row, from left: Coach Jim Hibbert, Brandon Lawler, Max Hibbert, Teddy Van der Velden, Nick Taylor, Aidan Plummer and Manager Earl Bell.
— image credit: Contributed photo

11U baseball team finishes second at district tourney

The Mercer Island 11U Little All Stars finished their District 9 tournament run, placing second and losing to the defending state champions from Eastlake Sammamish on July 13.

The team’s run for the championship began one week earlier, when it beat the Issaquah All Stars by a score of 9-1. Sharing time on the pitcher’s mound, Brandon Lawler and Alex Bell combined to shut down the Issaquah team by not allowing a single earned run.

Two days later, the 11U All Stars matched up against the Bellevue Thunderbird All Star team, winning by a score of 6-0. Mercer Island played a relentless style of defense led on the mound by pitchers Max Hibbert and Nick Taylor. Steven Woolston and Teddy Van der Velden each scored two runs for Mercer Island.

Mercer Island lost its first game on July 10, matching up against the Eastlake All Stars, learning early what it was like to play last year’s state champions. Falling behind 7-1 after two innings, Mercer Island scored four runs in the third inning — suddenly, the ball game was 7-5. Eastlake secured a win by scoring three runs in the fourth inning and one in the sixth inning, ending the game with a final score of 11-5.

On July 12, Mercer Island played against Bellevue West and won by a score of 7-0. Aidan Plummer threw a complete game shutout, completely baffling the Bellevue West All Stars and getting his team out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning by fielding a grounder on the mound and tagging the runner heading toward home plate. Alex Bell was masterful as shortstop, making incredible plays look easy, highlighted by a double play to end the second inning. Carl Bell jacked a triple off the center field fence rail, driving in Brandon Lawler.

The win against Bellevue West resulted in a rematch against Eastlake on July 13. Mercer Island came ready to play and quickly jumped out to a 1–0 lead when Nick Taylor crushed a home run over the left field fence. Starting pitcher Max Hibbert was supported by a stellar defense and quieted the Eastlake offense. The score was 1–1 going into the top of the fourth inning. Peter Allenbaugh started the inning with a walk and then came around to score after a triple to the right field fence by Steven Woolston. Nick Taylor drove in Steven Woolston and Mercer Island was leading in a 3–1 game. Eastlake then came back, scoring three runs in the fourth inning and one in the fifth inning, resulting in an Eastlake win with a final score of 5-3. Great pitching by Max Hibbert, solid play at shortstop by Alex Bell, and ground rule doubles by both Aidan Plummer and Carl Bell were additional game highlights.

Team Manager Earl Bell and Coach Jim Hibbert were happy for the 11U All Star Team, which placed second in a very tough district tournament, bettering its third-place finish in 2007 as the 10U All Star team. When asked to characterize the team, Bell commented that he was most proud of the team’s chemistry and each player’s ability to contribute to the team’s second-place finish. He noted Derek Sims, who had the team’s third highest batting average; Peter Williams’ exceptional play at third base; Nelson Hayes’ clutch catch in right field against Eastlake; and Peter Allenbaugh’s ability to consistently get on base when batting — examples of why the Mercer Island team had such a successful tournament run. Bell concluded by stating that “everyone on this team played an important role and, most importantly, had fun during this tournament.”

Thunder Baseball 9U takes first in Lynden Tournament

The 9U Thunder baseball team won the championship game of the Lynden summer kickoff against the Mercer Island Lightning, which Thunder beat 9-2 to take first place.

Thunder started off by playing one of the two White Rock teams from Canada and beating them 27-2. This game produced very strong hitting by all Thunder players, including great pitching by Kenny Koning, Luke Boxsem and Jacob Evans. Thunder played Lightning in the second game, winning 14-5. Thunder played the second White Rock team, and the bats kept booming in a 15-4 win. The final pool-play game was against Blaine. Thunder pulled out a close victory of 6-5, ending as the No. 1 seed in pool play.

Strong pitching throughout the tournament was delivered by Kenny Koning, Peter Ernst, Luke Boxsem, Jacob Evans, Bligh Bjarnason and Drew Christofferson. Johnny Van der Velden played catcher. Noah Hsue was the lead-off hitter. Justin Myers hit two doubles during the championship game, while Eric Dryer excelled at the plate and Alex Brown played well in the field.

“It was great to come out of this tournament and take the championship, since we came in second place in Pasco,” said Coach Myers. “This was also a very special tournament since both our 9U ITT teams played in the championship game, a true win-win for Mercer Island baseball.”

Islander All-Stars crowned District 9 champions

The Mercer Island All-Stars in the 9-10 Division won the District 9 Little League championship in dramatic fashion on July 14. The victory marked the first district title for the newly formed Mercer Island Little League, which has shown tremendous progress each year since its establishment in 2006.

After winning their first two games of the double-elimination tournament by a cumulative score of 21-1, the MI All-Stars faced the Issaquah All-Stars. The Islanders’ bats stayed hot in the third game as the team pounded out 11 hits and rolled to another shutout victory, 11-0. Anthony Scalzo pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings while allowing only three hits and striking out seven. Josh Stenberg was 2-for-3, scoring twice and driving in four runs. Peter Lopes cracked a pair of doubles and finished 2-for-2 with a walk and two RBIs. Michael Bantle added three hits and a pair of runs scored. Nathan Gallatin was 1-for-1 with a walk and two runs scored.

Next up for the red-hot Islander All-Stars was the equally impressive Kirkland American team, which had registered a 3-0 record on the other side of the 16-team bracket. With ace pitcher Michael Bantle on the mound, the MI All-Stars played what Coach Stenberg characterized as their best game of the tournament. Bantle kept the powerful Kirkland hitters off balance throughout the game, and MI bats provided runs in every inning as the Islanders raced to a 10-0 mercy-rule victory in just four innings of play. Bantle threw a complete game, no-hitter and struck out six, facing only two batters over the minimum. Josh Stenberg provided plenty of offense with a 3-for-3 performance at the plate, including two triples and three RBIs. David Emanuels was 2-for-3 with two runs scored.

After defeating the Kirkland American All-Stars to push their tournament record to 4-0, the MI All-Stars awaited the winner of the losers bracket to play for the district championship. To nobody’s surprise, the Kirkland team bounced back and advanced to the final for a rematch with the Islanders. With ace pitcher Connor Johnson on the mound, the Kirkland team had something to prove. The championship game was a thriller.

Stenberg started on the hill for the MI All-Stars. After allowing a solo homer in the first inning to Johnson, the MI All-Stars bounced back with two runs in the bottom of the first to claim a 2-1 lead. Both teams went scoreless in the second before Kirkland grabbed a 3-2 lead in the top of the third. MI came right back with two runs of its own in the bottom of the third to take a 4-3 lead and also pushed Johnson’s pitch count within one of the 75-pitch limit. Stenberg retired his opponents in the top of the fourth, and then the MI team erupted in the bottom half of the inning, scoring six runs to take a commanding 10-3 lead. The rally started with a base hit off of Johnson by Noah Hsue and ended with a clutch two-run single by Eric Kim. In the top of the fifth, Kirkland came storming back with six runs of its own. The inning ended with a screaming line drive caught by Michael Petrie in center field with the bases loaded and Mercer Island clinging to a 10-9 lead.

The MI All-Stars went quietly in the bottom of the fifth, and the score remained 10-9 heading into the sixth and final inning. Johnson led off the sixth inning with a monster home run for Kirkland to tie the game at 10. Anthony Scalzo, who entered the game as the pitcher for MI in the fifth inning, settled down to retire the side and preserve the tie heading into the bottom of the sixth.

A depleted Kirkland pitching staff struggled to find the strike zone and quickly walked the first two MI batters. After another pitching change, Michael Petrie walked to load the bases. With three pitchers ineligible due to pitch count in previous games and pitcher No. 4 in the game, Eric Kim patiently worked the count for another base on balls to drive Scalzo home for the Islanders’ 11th and winning run in a thrilling 11-10 victory.

For the tournament, the Islanders batted an impressive .449 as a team and scored 53 runs in five games, scoring in double figures in every game. Stenberg led the team in hitting with a .643 batting average and .722 on-base percentage (OBP), while scoring 10 runs and driving in eight. Michael Bantle led the team with 10 hits while batting .588 and scoring eight runs, and also anchored the pitching staff with 7 1/3 innings and zero earned runs allowed. Sam Pugel knocked in 11 runs to lead the team in RBIs, including six in one game on a pair of home runs. Pugel also batted .500 for the tournament with a .556 OBP. Other notable hitting performances included Peter Lopes (.500 average and .667 OBP), David Emanuels (.500 average, .611 OBP and seven runs) and Anthony Scalzo (.417 average, .611 OBP and one home run). Kim finished third in RBIs — with seven — and hit one of the team’s four home runs during the tournament.

The pitching staff was equally impressive throughout the tournament, allowing no earned runs through the first four games, including three shutouts. Stenberg led the pitchers with 12 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings of work while Scalzo registered another 10 strikeouts in eight innings of work. Bantle added another eight strike outs to go along with no earned runs allowed and the no-hitter.

The next stop for the MI All-Stars is the state tournament in Vancouver, Wash., which began July 19. The double elimination tournament features the district champions from all 13 Little League districts in the state.

Softball takes third in Kirkland tourney

The Mercer Island 10U All Star softball team placed third during the District 9 tournament, the week of July 14-18 in Kirkland.

Prior to this tournament, no Mercer Island Little League softball team ever won as many games or finished as high as this 10U team. The team made it to the finals of the winners’ bracket by beating a team from Sammamish. But it was not easy, as Mercer Island was forced to come back from a 14-2 deficit to win 22-21.

MI United wins Cornucopia Cup

The Mercer Island United U12 Select soccer team took first place at the Kent Cornucopia Cup.

With a record of 5-0, including 18 goals scored and two goals against, United proved unstoppable. The final was played against Westside United, which arrived there after a 5-1 semifinal win. MI United started the game at a furious pace, and 20 minutes into the game, was winning 3-0 with goals from Stuart Toda, Peter Battisti and Brett Bottomley. The team spent almost the whole game in the opponents’ half of the field.

Bottomley completed the hat trick to open the second half, as United opened a 5-0 lead with 10 minutes left in the game. United shots hit the post four times, and the overall ball movement by the United players left the Westside players frustrated. A quick breakaway from Westside allowed them to score a consolation goal, which was quickly answered with a driving shot from the outside by Griffin Tiedy. United won 6-1 and added its second tournament win after the Skagit Diadora Cup.

To get to the final, United won its three qualifying games by scores of 4-0 against FME Wallat, 4-0 against CSC Arsenal and 2-0 against SCFC. The semi-final against ISC Arsenal proved more of a challenge, as the game was won in overtime on a breakaway goal from Nathan Gallatin for United’s 2-1 victory.

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