The Thunderbird Little League intermediate all-star team will pack its bags for a trip to Nogales, Arizona for a West Coast regional baseball tournament.
Comprised of 12- and 13-year-olds, the Bellevue-based team won the Washington state tournament on July 6 in Vancouver, Washington. The locals defeated a team from the Greater Richland area, 8-1, in the state title game, and the squad had an overall record of 4-0 at the tournament.
Coach Eric Carnrite said the highlight of the state tourney was a nine-inning 8-6 triumph against North Kitsap in the semifinals on July 4.
“North Kitsap threw their best pitcher at us. He was a stud who was 6-foot, 3-inches tall and throwing 72 miles per hour. We pulled it out in the top of the ninth (inning). North Kitsap had their chances to beat us. They had a runner on third base in the sixth, seventh and eighth inning. That win was huge because it kept us out of the losers bracket,” Carnrite said. “That win put us in the drivers seat. It is really hard to get through the losers brackets in these tournaments because you go through your pitchers.”
Manager Fred Clarke was thrilled to see his squad attain a state title.
“It was just fantastic. The boys performed better than we could had possibly imagined. We were on cloud nine. It was great,” Clarke said.
The Thunderbird Little League intermediate squad will compete in the regional tournament, which kicks off on July 17 in Nogales. Teams from Hawaii, Alaska, California, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington will compete at the tourney. Carnrite said their team is guaranteed to compete at five games at regionals.
“We have hitting, pitching and stellar defense. We have a really deep pitching staff. We’re going to give it a good run. We know the competition is going to be exponentially better than what we’ve faced. We have fundamentally sound kids and they compete,” Carnrite said.
Clarke believes having a depth on the mound gives his team an advantage against a formidable assortment of teams on the West Coast.
“In Little League, it is critical,” Clarke said of having depth on the hill. “There are pitch counts and there has to be a certain amount of days of rest. When you have depth, it just completely changes the game for a team. Like everybody going down there, we are going to play to win. We know the competition will be fierce but these kids will give it their all and give it a shot. This is a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience and is something they can tell their kids about one day.”
The Thunderbird Little League intermediate all-star team roster consists of Jacob Freer, Lucas Clarke, Ethan Aulabaugh, Drew Wittman, Stephen Herr, Justin Topol, Jace Rainey, Jack Freytag, Kyle Garrett, Carson Carnrite, Luke Slater and Brady Auld. Mike Garrett rounds out the coaching staff.