"Stars shine on, eye state title"

"Bainbridge's young baseball dreadnoughts continued their march towards a state championship Wednesday.Although the defense faltered a bit, the 9-10 Little League all-stars cranked up the offense to post a 7-2 win over Kenmore in a winner's bracket semifinal, advancing to this weekend's climactic round of play.We've won eight in a row, but we've got two more to go, coach Mike Walsh said. This team has the ability to do it.Bainbridge met Auburn last night in the critical winner's bracket championship game. The winner of that game takes Saturday off, and plays for the championship at 1 p.m. Sunday at Beaver Lake Park in Sammamish.If that team loses Sunday, then it gets another shot for the title Monday.The loser of Friday's game remains alive in the double-elimination tournament, but would have to win three straight games on Saturday, Sunday and Monday to claim the title.For only the second time in postseason play, Bainbridge found itself behind against Kenmore, surrendering a run in the top of the first. The islanders made up the deficit in their first at bat. Tyler Campbell led off with a base hit, took second on Dylan Tucker-Gangnes' hard shot to second, then scored when Peter Leslie doubled over third base.After shutting down Kenmore in the second, Bainbridge took charge.Nick Fling, Mike Walsh and Willy Greene all singled with one out to score the go-ahead run. With two down and runners at second and third, Campbell ripped a shot into the outfield to score both runners, putting Bainbridge up by 4-1.Kenmore cut the deficit to two in the third, when Alex Stanford hit a ball way over the fence for a homer. That's the hardest I've ever seen a kid hit a baseball, an admiring Watson said.But that was it for the Kenmore offense. Greene escaped the third inning without further damage, then gave way to Nick Walsh, who threw three scoreless innings. Walsh was aided by a spectacular defensive play in the top of the fourth. With a runner on second and nobody out, the batter hit a smash up the middle that Walsh got a glove on, but couldn't hold. Peter Leslie charged in from shortstop, scooped up the deflection and fired to first to beat the runner by a half-step.Meanwhile, the runner on second broke for third. First baseman Taurean Yamada fired across the diamond to Tucker-Gangnes, who applied the tag for a double play. Walsh then recorded his only strikeout to turn Kenmore away scoreless.That double play was the turning point of the game, Watson said.Bainbridge put the game away in the bottom of the fourth with three more runs. Greene walked with one out, stole second, and advanced to third on Campbell's third hit of the game. After Campbell stole second, Tucker-Gangnes hit a hard grounder to shortstop and beat the throw to first keeping the inning alive and scoring Greene.Leslie stepped to the plate with runners at first and second and two out. He cleared the bases with a a line drive to the wall, making the final score 7-2.We made three or four errors in the game, which is unusual for us, Watson said.But we hit well - even our outs were hit hard. And we didn't give up many walks.Friday's game is the key, Watson said. And it should be a good game. Our scouts say Auburn is very good, but they're not an unbeatable machine. If we play our game, we can win.Watson's assessment is echoed by Don French, who won a state title two years ago with his group of 9-10 players.I think this group might even be better than we were, French said."

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