11/12 leaguers beating the heatThe squad opens with two wins at Walla Walla.
June 9, 2008 · Updated 7:49 PM
"WALLA WALLA - Tonight, Bainbridge Island's boys of summer may be sound asleep in their beds with visions of Southern California dancing in their heads.Bainbridge's 11/12-year-olds, competing as one of 11 district-tournament-winning teams in the state Little League Majors baseball tourney, won their first two games of the week-long event despite being forced to play in - for them - uncharacteristically searing heat.The wins - an 8-3 victory over District 10 Auburn on Tuesday and a 7-3 triumph over District 8 Northwest on Wednesday - set up a Friday night quarterfinal showdown with perennial state favorite Mill Creek.With a Friday win, Bainbridge would be just two victories away from their first-ever trip to the Little League sectional tournament in San Bernardino, Calif. - one step away from the Little League World Series.Bainbridge's best finish in 37 years of Little League All-Star existence was a fifth-place showing in 1999.Bainbridge Manager Don French, who won a state title with a team of 9/10-year-olds in 1998, believes he's got the horses to cross the finish line in first this year as well.We've had a long ways to come, and we're not up to peak yet, French said. We're not banging on all cylinders yet.That was particularly evident in Bainbridge's opening game, in which numerous base-running and defensive blunders wiped out an early lead established on a first-inning home run by Austin Hurt.But Tal Glass helped with the defensive gem of the tourney so far, cleanly fielding a bunt and firing a perfect off-balance throw to third to nail a runner for a critical second out, in the fourth inning with Auburn leading 3-2. And starting pitcher Robbie Stevenson took back the home run he gave up in the fourth inning with a blast of his own in the fifth to tie the game at 3-3.Two hits, two errors and two wild pitches later, Bainbridge held a 6-3 edge. Reliever Nash Hensen then nailed the door shut with 2-2/3 innings of work, adding insurance to his team's cause with a two-run single in the sixth and final inning.A much more polished Bainbridge squad took the field for Wednesday night's contest. Rudy Sharar scored the first run on a second-inning error, then Bainbridge broke the game open with a five-run third frame.Stevenson led off the inning with his second homer of the tourney. Hurt singled. Coby Gibler, the next batter, then backed his strong complete-game pitching performance with a mammoth two-run blast over the right-field fence. Peter Leslie closed out the frame with an RBI single.Gibler gave up two earned runs in the third inning, but bounced back to strike out four of Northwest's last six batters. He recorded nine strikeouts for the contest.Stevenson, Hurt, Leslie and Hensen led Bainbridge through the two games with three hits apiece.If Bainbridge emerged triumphant from Friday night's game, the All-Stars would play in a Sunday night contest for the right to advance to next Tuesday's title tilt. The team could conceivably play back-to-back games against the same opponent that night for the right to advance to the sectional tournament.French was pleased with his team's turnaround and triumphs.If we continue to improve, he said, we've got a shot at this. "