Sports

MI Little League All-Stars claim state title

Mercer Island’s 2009 11-12 All-Stars (left to right): Manager Steve Stenberg, David Emanuels, Brandon Lawler, Keegan Ogard, Josh Stenberg, Max Hibbert, Michael Bantle, William Mansfield, Nick Taylor, Coach Brock Mansfield, Anthony Scalzo, Aidan Plummer, Assistant Coach Anne Emanuels, and Sam Pugel.  - Special to the Mercer Island Reporter
Mercer Island’s 2009 11-12 All-Stars (left to right): Manager Steve Stenberg, David Emanuels, Brandon Lawler, Keegan Ogard, Josh Stenberg, Max Hibbert, Michael Bantle, William Mansfield, Nick Taylor, Coach Brock Mansfield, Anthony Scalzo, Aidan Plummer, Assistant Coach Anne Emanuels, and Sam Pugel.
— image credit: Special to the Mercer Island Reporter

Michael Bantle’s single in the bottom of the final inning gave Mercer Island’s 11-12 All-Stars a 3-2 win over Pasco National on Aug. 2, securing the Washington State Little League Baseball Championship title.

The crowd rose to their feet as Aidan Plummer crossed the plate for the final run, marking the team’s third comeback in a row in the state tournament at Port Orchard.

The state title is Mercer Island’s second-in-a-row after several of the same boys won the 9-10 All-Star tournament last year.

Pasco was up 2-0 going into the final inning, but Islander Keegan Ogard belted a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game. Reliever Brandon Lawler kept the scores level until Bantle got a walk-off RBI single for the Mercer Island victory.

Team manager Steve Stenberg said the team’s winning strategy was to wear down Pasco ace-pitcher Austin Clarke. And running up the pitch count to the 85-pitch league limit early in the game soon paid the team dividends. In the fourth inning, two Islander runners were forced out at home plate, but they succeeded in pushing Clarke to the limit, setting up Ogard’s home run hit off a Pasco relief pitcher.

“[They] really gained from their previous experiences in the last two games,” said Stenberg. “The key to yesterday’s game was the kids keeping their composure.”

Mercer Island previously defeated Pasco in extra innings, 8-7, Bainbridge Island, 4-3, and South Skagit, 4-0, to reach the title game.

“The kids were in tears or close to tears,” said Mercer Island Little League board member Brian Emanuels. “[They] all made some huge plays that all contributed to a championship win.”

The championship win gave the Islanders a berth in the Northwest Regional tournament on Aug. 7-15 in San Bernardino, Calif., where they will play Oregon champs Parrish Little League at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 8.

The regional championship game will be televised on a live broadcast on cable sports channel ESPN on Saturday, Aug. 15. The victor of that tournament will qualify for the 2009 Little League World Series on Aug. 21-30 in Williamsport, Pa.

In last year’s Little League World Series, an All-Star team from Mill Creek reached the quarterfinals until losing, 9-4, to Waipio Little League from Waipahu, Hawaii.

The Hawaiians then went on to defeat the Matamoros Little League of Matamoros, Mexico, for the Little League World Series title.

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