"Experience, talent takes 15s to state"
June 9, 2008 · Updated 7:34 PM
"BREMERTON - If experience is the best teacher, Bainbridge's 15-year-old all-stars have learned their lessons well.They proved that over the weekend by storming to the Babe Ruth district championship, a title that this bunch won as 13-year-olds and as 14-year olds.That's something - winning the district tournament three years in a row, head coach Bruce Hebner said. No matter who you're playing, that's hard to do, because so many things can happen in baseball.Bainbridge captured the title with an 8-5 win over Central Kitsap on Sunday. They got to the title game with an opening-round 6-2 win over South Kitsap, then a 14-4 pasting of Central.The team now heads for the 15-year-old state tournament this weekend in Wenatchee, and hopes to duplicate the state title they earned last year as 14-year-olds.The experience of the Bainbridge team has come not only from past tournament successes, but also from playing together during the season as a travelling team that plays in tournaments and against other all-star teams during the season.We get an extra 20 or 30 games together that way, to prepare for this Hebner said. That experience really pays off. Experience was Bainbridge's biggest ally in Sunday's championship game at Legion Field in Bremerton, when the islanders twice fought their way out from under deficits. Knowing that they had a second chance - the two teams would've played again Monday in a rubber match if CK had won Sunday - couldn't have hurt, either.You could see it in this team that they've seen a lot of tournament play, Hebner said. (CK) would jump up on us, and we'd come right back at them. We didn't let it bother us at all when they got ahead of us.Frustration did seem to get to Bainbridge a little after it failed to convert bases-loaded situations in both the first and third innings. They were rubbed out in the first when pitcher Jason Sencil (the coach's son) gloved Ross McKinstry's grounder and started a 1-2-3 double play.Bainbridge committed three errors in the fourth, allowing the Rebels to score three runs, but came back with a three spot of its own in the bottom of the inning on five base hits. CK scored two more in the fifth on Anthony Regusci's flare into left center, but Bainbridge countered with a quartet of runs on four more hits, including Sam Marshall's two-run single that gave them the lead for good.Bainbridge pounded out 15 hits, and took advantage of them with aggressive baserunning. The islanders stole seven bases and moved up three more runners on catcher's indifference, getting into scoring position to streak home on all those singles.We've got a very fast team, Hebner said of the strategy. We're going to run and get into scoring position. Today, we got the key hits when we needed them.Pat Fiander went the distance on the mound for Bainbridge, striking out five and scattering seven hits.Kevin Hebner and Kevan Neill each had three hits for Bainbridge, and Marshall finished with three RBIs.Bainbridge opened the tournament Friday with a hard-fought 6-2 win over South Kitsap. Solid defense and Ross McKinstry's pitching blunted the SK attack, and Tom Armitage hit a two-run homer to pace the offense.Bainbridge's bats came alive Saturday against Central Kitsap in a 14-4 win.We hit the ball very, very hard in that game, Hebner said.Andy Nelson started and went most of the way for Bainbridge before Rett Rapada closed the game.Central then survived a loser-out game against SK for the right to meet Bainbridge again in the double-elimination tournament.Looking ahead to the state tournament, Hebner said that most of the teams that played in last year's 14-year-old tournament are back.We know these guys pretty well, he said. It will be tough.An extra incentive for the islanders is that if they win the state title, they come home for the regional tournament, which is being held in Poulsbo.The rules say that visiting players have to stay with host families, Hebner said. Last year at Moses Lake, one of our players had to share a twin bed with a boy from the host team.But if you're from within 50 miles of the tournament site, you can stay home. That will help us this year if we get that far."