Eastlake Little League from Sammamish, Washington has one of the top three all-star teams in the United States of America. Let that statement sink in for a moment.
With a population of 46,700 in Sammamish, there were 13 twelve year olds that came together and have created something great. You might be thinking ‘Hey! There are 14 kids on the team!’. Of course there are. But as you may or may not know, Jacob Dahlstrom actually lives right on the Renton/Maple Valley border, and is only a member of Eastlake Little League because there is no little league where he lives. He attends Eastside Catholic, which is in the Eastlake zone, and therefore he plays on the Eastlake team. Fourteen kids, three coaches, and an innumerable amount of fans.
With their 6-5 win over Nashville, Tennessee yesterday, Eastlake Little League moved into the United States semifinal, with an opponent to be determined by the loser of the California vs. Connecticut game on Wednesday.
The game against Tennessee started out horrifically for Eastlake, going down 2-0 after the first inning and after the first two innings not only had Eastlake not had one hit, they had not even put the ball in play; all six of their batters had struck out (five of them looking). Tennessee pitcher Trae McLemore looked dominant early, but all Eastlake had to do was just put a crack in the dam, and soon the floodgates would be opened.
Nate Fitzgibbons was walked to start the third inning, followed by Dylan Matsuoka who was pegged on the hand. Bryce Delay then fought off a pitch that flared into center, which just bounced off the glove of the second baseman. For the first time all game, Eastlake actually had runners on base and all of a sudden the bases were loaded with no outs. The next play was one of the more controversial in the whole game. Both sides were in disbelief. It was the type of play that flips momentum 180 degrees. The floodgates were opened.
On an 0-2 count, Jack Carper sliced a ball to right field. From the angle showed on television the ball looked clearly foul at first glance, but the umpire called it fair, to the disbelief of most. Two runs scored on the play and just like that, the game was tied. The Tennessee manager went out to challenge the play, and after ESPN showed several replays I still wasn't sure, but the more I watched it, the more I believed that the call was correct. Sure enough, the umpire came back out with an emphatic, “the call stands” and that was that. Tie ballgame.
The players from Tennessee were visibly rattled and it led to an onslaught for Eastlake, scoring six runs in that inning. This was not the end of the game obviously and credit will be given where credit is due. The kids from Tennessee never quit, scoring two runs in the bottom of the third and one more in the bottom of the fourth, making it a 6-5 game. As nervous as all the fans were, Jack Matheson was not and in the bottom of the sixth, he closed the game out, looking confident the entire time.
Celebration ensued, but while this was the end of the game, it is not the end of the story because of the pesky pitch count rules. Eastlake plays again on Thursday, but it will be without both of their top two pitchers Jacob Dahlstrom and Jack Matheson, because they both pitched over 35 pitches yesterday, which means that they need at least two days rest (Wednesday and Thursday).
Eastlake Little League looks to continue their historic run Thursday night at 5 p.m.
This means that whomever Eastlake plays, whether it be the same Connecticut team that beat them earlier in the tournament, or powerhouse and United States favorite Chula Vista, California, they will be without their top two pitchers. Hope is not lost however, as Will Armbruester, Dalton Chandler, and Jack Carper have all proven to be more than capable of having success in Williamsport. Furthermore, we will presumably not be going against the number one pitcher for either California or Connecticut because they will be pitching against each other in a game on Wednesday. Eastlake absolutely has the talent to win the game against whomever they face, however it will remain to be seen whether they can put it all together and continue their historic run.
Only two more wins and Eastlake is the United States champion. Three more and they are the best 12U all-star team in the world. But we must go one game at a time. And the next one is on Thursday at 5 PM Pacific Time on ESPN2. Stay tuned.
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