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Stars go out on title doorstep
"After eight straight post-season triumphs, Bainbridge's 9-10 Little League all-stars finally ran into a team that played the pitching-and-defense game ever so slightly better. And as a result, the islanders had to settle for third place in the state tournament.The critical game was a classic pitchers' duel - almost unheard-of in Little League baseball. But in the pivotal Friday night game, Auburn edged Bainbridge 1-0 in the winners bracket final.That loss dropped Bainbridge into the losers bracket, where they would have needed to win three games in three days to take the title. And the mental and physical fatigue of the Friday game caught up to them Saturday, as they bowed 15-5 to Pacific, giving up more runs in one game than they had yielded in the entire tournament. The Friday night game against Auburn was the most exciting of the tournament. Willy Greene started and pitched flawlessly striking out three and allowing no runs. Nick Fling pitched the final three innings, striking out five.Auburn finally pushed across an unearned run in the top of the sixth, leaving Bainbridge with one last chance for a rally.And Bainbridge tried mightily. After sitting in the dugout for five innings, pinch-hitter Will Watson ripped a base hit between first and second.Tyler Campbell's grounder forced Watson at second. Then Dylan Tucker-Gangnes crushed a double into the gap in left-center, putting runners on second and third with one out.Auburn was equal to the challenge. Peter Leslie and Michael Heald, Bainbridge's number three and four hitters, both hit the ball hard, but the runners weren't able to advance, and Auburn held on for the win.Both teams played excellent defense, Bainbridge coach Rick Watson said.We hit the ball well, but hit it right at players. The opposing pitcher threw a lot of off-speed pitches and we were out in front of most of the game.After a late ferry ride Friday, Bainbridge had to head back to Sammamish Saturday for an 11 a.m. game against Pacific. For the first two innings, Bainbridge held on to a 5-4 lead. But then the islanders ran out of gas, and Pacific claimed the 10-run win.It was a terrific post-season, Watson said. The team placed third in the state (out of 125 all-star teams), and know that on any given day, they can compete with numbers on and two.I would like to thank all the players for the wonderful experience the past month and a half has been. They truly are champions, Watson said."