Sports

Babe Ruth All-Stars claim state championship

Babe Ruth 14s state champions include (Top row L-R) coaches Gregg Adkins and Bob Hope, Kevin Hope, Jake Estes, Colby Morse, Kiyle Playter, Mackenzie Bond, Nate Corke, manager Israel Gaphni, (bottom row) Ross Olason, Ian Powell, Jordan Gaphni, Steffen Daquisto, Casey Adkins, Anthony Ricco and Andy Redmond. - Courtesy of Israel Graphni
Babe Ruth 14s state champions include (Top row L-R) coaches Gregg Adkins and Bob Hope, Kevin Hope, Jake Estes, Colby Morse, Kiyle Playter, Mackenzie Bond, Nate Corke, manager Israel Gaphni, (bottom row) Ross Olason, Ian Powell, Jordan Gaphni, Steffen Daquisto, Casey Adkins, Anthony Ricco and Andy Redmond.
— image credit: Courtesy of Israel Graphni

Behind in nearly every game, the squad comes up with big plays for the title run.

If someone would have told manager Israel Gaphni a few weeks ago that his Babe Ruth All-Star team would go to Eastern Washington and return state champions, he wouldn’t have thought it was possible.

“I don’t think there was any one of us that expected it,” he said. “We have a team of good players, but we don’t have a bunch of superplayers.

“We did feel like we could compete, but since we had such significant turnover, we didn’t necessarily think we could win the thing.”

But his squad of “good players” – many of whom were not All-Stars in Little League – were good enough to win the 2005 North Washington State championship at the state Babe Ruth 14-year-old tournament Monday in Naches, near Yakima.

Three of their wins in the tournament were come from behind, including the championship game against Burlington.

In the 10 games they played between the district and state tournaments, they trailed in all but two, yet went 8-2.

Bainbridge showed its persistence in the first game against Othello, winning 5-4 in extra innings when Steffen Daquisto scored the winning run on a single by Jordan Gaphni.

In their second game against Mt. Rainier, the team that had knocked them out of the Babe Ruth 13s tournament a year ago, they raced out to a 10-0 lead and held on to win 15-10. Jordan Gaphni drove in four runs, while Kiyle Playter had three RBI.

Bainbridge pitchers issued 14 walks in a 12-2 loss to East Wenatchee, but came back, figuratively and literally, in a 6-4 win over Ferndale to claim the National Division championship to move into the tournament semifinals.

Down 4-3 in the bottom of the sixth, Bainbridge rallied as they loaded the bases, then Nate Corke hit a sacrifice fly to score Jordan Gaphni. Powell then singled, scoring Playter with the go-ahead run.

In their semifinal game against the host team, Bainbridge starter Mackenzie Pond held the Naches bats in check, allowing only one run in four innings.

BBainbridge couldn’t get their offense going for much of the contest. But the All-Stars tied the game in the fifth on a two-run single by Kevin Hope, then took the lead in the sixth as they scored four runs on a two-run triple by Morse, an RBI single from Corke and a RBI double from Jake Estes. Hope pitched a scoreless seventh to earn the save.

The championship game saw another comeback by Bainbridge. In the seventh, down 5-4, Daquisto walked, worked his way to third, then scored the tying run on a throwing error. Colby Morse scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball, and Ian Powell added an insurance run with a solo homer.

Burlington scored once in the seventh and had the tying run at third, but Hope came in for his third straight save as he got the Burlington batter to ground into a game-ending double play to give the team their first state title.

“There was a little bit of disbelief,” Israel Gaphni said when it registered they had won the championship. “But the players were totally elated, and some of the parents were teary-eyed.

“It seemed like so many teams were capable of winning,” he said of their odds to win it all. “If a ball might have bounced a different way or if an umpire made a different call, we might not be there.”

Pitching coach Bob Hope said their constant comebacks reminded him of a historic team – the ’95 Mariners.

“I never saw so many close games before,” he said. “These kids played up to their motto: one heart. They really played with heart.”

Israel Gaphni said he and his coaches try to “powwow” on all the decisions. They also try to play all the kids in different positions at one time or another and – most importantly – they don’t put too much pressure on them.

“We do expect them to compete, but we never set our sights on the title,” he said. “We just went out and took it pitch by pitch, inning by inning. We try to have fun, but we do try to keep it business like when we’re on the field.”

The All-Stars will continue their run Tuesday in the regional tournament at Propostra Field in Vancouver.

They’ll be playing against Babe Ruth teams from South Washington, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and teams from Alberta and British Columbia, along with the host team Hazenville Metro.

Coach Gaphni said it’s been a scramble to try and find places for the players to stay. Local families host players, while the parents are on their own for lodging.

On the field, he’s staying the course.

“We’ll compete pitch by pitch and use the talents the players have for the betterment of the team,” he said. “We tell them on a number of occasions that they’re playing for their community.

“As we’ve come through, there have been numerous coaches and people that have come in and helped us, so they’re playing for their community, not just them. We try to make it a bigger picture.”

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