Lexus takes silver

The Lexus All-Stars baseball team, all 10-year-old Mercer Islanders, played five games to earn the silver medal in the AAU Washington State Championship held in Bremerton, Wash., Aug. 5-7. Lexus began the tournament with a dominating victory over the Vancouver, Wash., Mustangs, 17-0. Jamie Lungmus, Logan Barton-Rowledge and Kyle Huber combined for the two-hit shutout. Huber clubbed three doubles and scored three runs, Alex Emanuels was 2-for-3 with a double, every Lexus hitter got on base and 9-of-10 batters scored. In a foreshadowing of the championship game, Sean Casey and Emanuels pitched against the powerhouse Cowlitz County All-Stars, a team selected from all-stars across all of southwest Washington, only to have one tough inning prove to be the difference. Casey held Cowlitz scoreless in the first inning despite having the bases loaded with only one out. After Matt Orehek walloped a long home run in the second for the 1-0 lead, Casey retired all three Cowlitz hitters in the second. Casey allowed the tying run in the third inning, as he once again worked out of a bases-loaded jam by starting an inning-ending double play. Jordan Morris knocked in Huber to give Lexus a 2-1 lead during the fourth. In the bottom half of the inning, Cowlitz hitters found some holes and hit a long double, added a walk and an error to score four runs. Lexus threw out one runner at home and stranded two others. Down 5-2, Lexus battled back, and got their lead-off hitter to third base in both the fifth and sixth innings. The team loaded the bases with the go-ahead run at the plate in the sixth inning, only to have Cowlitz make the plays in the field to leave the final score 5-2. Brian Higgins was 2-for-2 with a double.

In the third game Saturday, against the Bremerton Mini-Blue Jackets, Higgins and Connor O'Brien were effectively wild, striking out eight batters during the first four-innings, but surrendering four runs on four hits, two hit batters and three walks, while stranding five opponent base runners in scoring position. The Lexus offense clawed from behind in each of the first three innings, and scratched their way to a 4-4 tie without a hit, on three errors, three walks and aggressive base running. Finally in the fourth, Lexus broke through, O'Brien and Emanuels connected on back-to-back singles with the bases loaded to score three runs. Morris and Orehek each pitched perfect innings in the fifth and sixth to complete the 7-4 victory. The semi-finals were a rematch with the Vancouver Mustangs, and the outcome was no different: Lexus pitchers threw another two-hitter, and the offense was explosive, scoring eight in the second inning and seven in the third to win easily, 15-1. Glenn Sherman and Barton-Rowledge were both 2-for-2 with a walk, Lungmus and Morris both collected two hits, Steen Swedstedt belted a double off the wall, all 10 players got on base and all 10 scored. In the championship game re-match against the Cowlitz All-Stars, Emanuels pitched a perfect first inning and Lexus threatened in the bottom half, only to come away empty despite two singles. Cowlitz's pitcher crushed a two-run home run in the second, after which Emanuels once again retired them in order. Lungmus and Barton-Rowledge combined to get one run back in the home second, but Lexus also stranded two more runners. Behind Morris on the mound, Lexus held Cowlitz to just one run in the third, when Higgins completed a thrilling double play with a perfect block of home plate on a throw from Emanuels at first. A scoreless fourth came to Lexus thanks to a diving catch in left field by Sherman. Down 3-1, Higgins led off the bottom of the fourth with a single and a stolen base, but Cowlitz defensive plays left yet another runner stranded in scoring position. Lexus suffered a tough inning during the fifth. Three walks and two ground ball singles produced two Cowlitz runs, before the clean-up batter hit a rocket single and two more runs -- followed by a soft bloop over the drawn-in infield, another walk, and an infield single -- seven runs in all, for the 10-1 deficit. Lexus got their first two hitters aboard in the sixth, but left them stranded again, as Cowlitz's power pitching and defense delivered once more. For the tournament, Higgins led Lexus on offense, hitting .583 and getting on base in every game. Emanuels and Barton-Rowledge both hit .444 with on base percentages (OBP) over .600. The team hit .345, and 9-of-11 players had an OBP over .450, although the Lexus' team batting average was over .100 points and slugging percentage over .200 points below their season averages. Lexus pitchers held opponents to a .235 batting average and had 26 strikeouts in 26 innings.

Lexus now advances to the AAU USA Nationals in Portland, Ore. Labor Day Weekend, September 2-5.

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