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All-Stars continue march to series
"By today, the Bainbridge Island Little League All-Stars will come closer to knowing whether nationwide television exposure is in their immediate future. Bainbridge, which leveled its first two opponents 27-0 in Western Region tournament play, faced another unbeaten, unscored-upon team Tuesday night in Academy of Colorado Springs, Colo. A victory, regardless of the disposition of Bainbridge's final pool play game Thursday morning against Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, would almost guarantee Bainbridge's advancement into the 16-team field's final-four round. Two championship games on Aug. 13 and 14, to be broadcast on the ESPN2 network, will determine the top two teams to be sent to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. I think we're hitting the ball well, and holding up in the heat well,'' said Coby Gibler, whose complete-game shutout Monday led Bainbridge to a 12-0 rout over Gastineau Channel East of Juneau, Alaska in 112-degree Southern California heat. I'm really surprised that we were scoring as many runs as we were, Gibler added. But I think we can make a serious run at the World Series. We're capable enough. Even as team members sweltered in heat that held in the mid-80s at night and sapped their abilities to sleep in the tournament complex's barracks-like quarters - in the unfamiliar position of being separated from their families - they were all competitive cool on the field. Bainbridge first faced Billings Big Sky, the Montana state champion, on Saturday in a game that proved to be a competition in name only. Behind a five-inning perfect game by pitcher Robbie Stevenson, Bainbridge bashed out 17 hits and had the game well in hand before breaking it wide open with an eight-run sixth inning. Peter Huisinga led the plate parade with three hits and three runs batted in, and Taurean Yamada also had three hits. Stevenson, who fanned seven batters, contributed a single and a double. Jesse Colkitt closed the game with a scoreless inning of one-hit relief. Montana Manager Garth Clarin said his players beat themselves, however. That was the worst performance we've had since we started playing two months ago, he said. It was just a total lack of focus and concentration. Bainbridge proved that first win was no fluke Monday morning, however, against the Alaska state champion. Nash Hensen started a three-run outburst in the second inning with an infield single - the first of his game-high three hits - and advanced to third when the Alaska leftfielder misplayed a line drive by Huisinga. Peter Leslie brought him around with a base hit to right-center, and Huisinga and Leslie scored on passed balls. Bainbridge added two more runs in the fifth, and, like the game before, smashed the contest apart in the sixth with a seven-run outburst filled with errors by a dispirited Alaska squad. Huisinga, Leslie, Dalton Gent, Adam Beck, Colkitt and Gibler each drove in runs. In the two games, Bainbridge has outhit the competition, 30-3, made just two errors to more than a dozen by their opponents, and only allowed a runner as far as third base on one occasion. The generosity of offense has allowed Bainbridge Manager Don French and his coaches, Dick Henshaw and Greg Stevenson, to be generous with playing time for their reserves. Each of Bainbridge's reserves, guaranteed at least one at-bat by Little League rules, got two on Monday - and they've been just as productive, if not more, than many of the starters. The younger guys down the lineup have been hitting the ball well, and I think that's been sneaking up on some of these teams, French said, adding that more offensive weapons - not to mention having as many as six quality arms ready to take the pitching mound - gives him more future strategic options. We came to play, and we came to win, French said. It's the same attitude we had in our state tournament. "