Sports

On to state for 11/12 StarsThe squad bounced back to down Gig Harbor on consecutive days

"The two key hits in Thursday's 5-2 district championship win over Gig Harbor, advancing the Bainbridge 11/12 All-Stars to next week's state championships, couldn't have been more different.The first was Peter Huisinga's 210-foot, two-run homer that climaxed a three-run first inning. The other was Rudy Sharar's 15-foot bunt single that trickled down the third base line to ignite a two-run sixth inning and provide some breathing room in a close game. The victory was the third in three days as the team rebounded from a Sunday defeat by the Gig Harbor Americans to take home the championship trophy.They defeated North Kitsap National 8-5 on Tuesday to remain alive in the double elimination tournament, then trounced Gig Harbor 9-2 in a rematch on Wednesday to set up Thursday's rubber game for the championship.I think that losing a game early helped us, said coach Dick Henshaw. It made the kids understand what it takes to win.One element in the team's win was getting off to a fast start. Bainbridge plated three runs in the first inning on Thursday as Nash Hensen's clutch two-out single scored Austin Hurt with the game's first run, and Hensen scored moments later on Huisinga's blast.After walking the first batter in the bottom of the first and seeing the second get aboard as well when no one covered second on a grounder, Hensen fanned the next two batters and induced an inning-ending groundout.He escaped a potentially big inning in the bottom of the second when Huisinga and Jesse Colquitt teamed up for the defensive play of the game. With a man on first and one out, the next batter hit a sharp single to center. Huisinga scooped up the ball and rifled a perfect throw to third baseman Colquitt, who put the tag on the runner trying to advance from first.Gig Harbor had two more runners in the third with one out on an error and hit batter, but Hensen's sixth strikeout of the game and a grounder ended the inning without harm.Gig Harbor finally broke through in the fourth, scoring a run on three singles and a pair of passed balls. A strong throw from outfielder Robbie Stevenson following the third hit prevented the runner on second from getting any further than third. He expired there when Stevenson came on to relieve Hensen and got the final out on a sharp liner to Colquitt.After a scoreless fifth, Sharar laid down his key bunt in the top of the sixth with one out. Peter Leslie followed with a walk, and two passed balls allowed Sharar to score and Leslie to advance to third. Taurean Yamada plated Leslie with a single.The extra runs proved crucial as Gig Harbor's second hitter in the bottom of the sixth drove a long home run over the centerfield fence and another batter singled with two outs. But the next hitter drove a grounder to Sharar, who stepped on second for the final out and the celebration began. Walla Walla and motel rooms were the most common words from jubilant parents who rushed onto the field as they anticipated up to a week-long sojourn east of the mountains.Nash threw hard and he threw well, said Henshaw. Then Robbie came in and shut them down.I'm just so happy for the kids. They didn't give up or let up. I'm so proud of them.He certainly had ample reason for pride in Wednesday's game.We came out from the beginning and played hard, he said. The kids were really fired up and I think we beat their number one starter, he said.They scored twice in the second as Huisinga reached on an error, Sharar singled and both scored on additional Gig Harbor errors.They added three more in the third. Walks, errors and Huisinga's RBI single produced the first two runs, and Sharar foreshadowed his Thursday heroics with a bunt RBI single for the third tally.Stevenson's homer kicked off a four-run fourth to put the game out of reach. Gibler and Hensen singled, Huisinga drove in both with yet another single and Colquitt's squeeze bunt allowed Huisinga to score.That was more than enough support for Gibler, who threw a complete game.He was real solid and stayed focused, Henshaw said.Those bunts were huge plays in the game, he added. And we played great defense. Peter Leslie made a diving catch at second, and he and (first baseman) Robbie played outstanding defense on tough balls between them.The pair triggered a crucial double play in the third, as Leslie threw to Stevenson at first for the front half. Stevenson then threw home to nail a runner trying to score to snuff a rally that might have helped Gig Harbor get back into the game.Fighting past North Kitsap Bainbridge gave itself the opportunity to play Gig Harbor by defeating North Kitsap National 8-5 on Tuesday in conditions more akin to season-opening April weather. Heavy clouds produced light drizzle that turned into light rain in the final innings. Bainbridge struck quickly. With one out, Stevenson's long liner glanced off the right fielder's mitt and he wound up on second. Gibler then stroked a long homer over the right-centerfield wall.Hensen had an infield single and never stopping running when Huisinga followed with a double down the right field line to easily score. Colquitt sacrificed Huisinga to third and he came home on a passed ball.After Gibler set down NK without a hit in the first, he was replaced on the mound to make him eligible to pitch the following night. Bainbridge extended the margin to 7-0 in the third. Gibler's grounder led to a throwing error that put him on second, and he moved to third on Hensen's single to center. Huisinga's single scored Gibler. Hensen scored on Colquitt's groundout and Sharar began his bunting barrage to bring Huisinga home.But North Kitsap battled back on a three-run homer in the third and two-run blast with one out in the fourth to close to within 7-5. At that point Hensen trotted in from center field and fanned the next two hitters. Huisinga provided a bit of a cushion in the top of the fifth as he legged out an infield single, moved to second on another Colquitt sacrifice and scored on two passed balls.Hensen fanned two more in the fifth and struck out the side in the sixth to complete an outstanding relief job that preserved the win and set up the sweep of Gig Harbor the following two evenings.Kids this age sometimes don't know what they can do, so this is something very special, Henshaw said in the afterglow of Thursday's win. Though he and everyone else connected with the team savored the moment, they were also looking ahead.We have some polishing to do before we go to state, Henshaw said.The team opens the double-elimination tournament with a game against a Renton-area team on Tuesday at 4 p.m. "

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