Sports

Rangers take second place in tournament

South Whidbey Rangers Trent Fallon, Connor Antich and Ricky Muzzey set up the next defensive play during the team’s 8-4 win over the Oak Harbor Giants on Wednesday. The boys lost their final bid for a championship in a loss to South Skagit on Thursday, but took second place after amassing a sterling 15-7 overall season record. - Darci Chowen photo
South Whidbey Rangers Trent Fallon, Connor Antich and Ricky Muzzey set up the next defensive play during the team’s 8-4 win over the Oak Harbor Giants on Wednesday. The boys lost their final bid for a championship in a loss to South Skagit on Thursday, but took second place after amassing a sterling 15-7 overall season record.
— image credit: Darci Chowen photo

South Whidbey’s Texas Rangers took it down to the wire.

But on Thursday night, the 9- and 10-year-olds were overcome by South Skagit 7-0 in the Little League post-season Andy Andrade Memorial Tournament in Oak Harbor.

“We were unable to put a chink in Skagit’s pitching staff,” said manager Bill Patterson. “We saw two of the best pitchers they’ve got, and they were very overpowering.”

Ranger shortstop Trent Fallon said on Friday that his team only collected two hits the entire game.

“Their pitchers were pretty good,” he said. “We’re sad about losing, but second place is nice. And we won a lot of games this season.”

The Rangers were 12-5 in the regular season and 15-7 overall.

Teammate Andy Zisette felt the team may have made too many infield errors.

“We missed some ground balls that would have been outs,” he recalled.

The Rangers are now out of the tournament, but went down fighting all the way.

On Tuesday, South Whidbey’s Little League players lost to South Skagit 5-0, but bounced back Wednesday to beat the Oak Harbor Giants 8-4.

“They showed grit and determination,” Patterson said.

In order to advance to the final round, the boys faced seemingly long odds against bigger, more accomplished teams from Sedro-Woolley and Central Whidbey last weekend.

Managed by Patterson and coached by Craig Antich, David Nelson and Don Zisette, the Rangers used a simple rallying cry to battle through two huge games into the tournament’s third round: “Go Hard.”

Coined by Patterson, “Go Hard” carries great weight on a Little League ballfield. All season, the Rangers embodied that ideal, playing with an uncommon level of effort and intensity and leaning on strong pitching and defensive fundamentals to win games.

Facing the champion of the Sedro-Woolley Little League in their first-round tournament game last weekend in Oak Harbor, the bats came out in force. The Rangers won 10-4, then beat the Central Whidbey Panthers 12-9 the following day.

Deep triples were recorded by Fallon, Ricky Muzzey, Zisette, Charley Patterson and Will Simms. Batters advanced runners with perfectly-executed bunts and well-placed ground balls. Runners legged out infield singles, stretched singles to doubles and doubles to triples and stole bases to keep the pressure on the opposing team’s defense. Rangers from top to bottom in the lineup delivered key hits at critical times to drive in runs.

Muzzey and Patterson were the heart of a pitching staff that kept the Rangers in both games. And the outstanding pitching performance didn’t stop there, as Zisette, Fallon, Bo Blakey and Chase White all contributed key innings from the mound to set up and seal the two victories. The Rangers’ solid play in the field was anchored in the strong hand of Jacob George behind the plate and capitalized on strength in the middle of the infield with shortstop Muzzey and second basemen Simms and Conor Antich keeping the bigger hitters of Sedro-Woolley and Central Whidbey at bay.

And when the balls did reach the outfield, Jacob Nelson, Jordan Henriot and C.K. Watson kept the hits to singles instead of doubles and triples.

“They went hard,” Patterson said when the weekend was over. “Ranger baseball is about hard-nosed defense, good pitching and timely hitting.”

Coach Antich agreed. “The boys have worked very hard all year long on these fundamentals, and they should be proud of themselves,” he said.

The games aren’t over quite yet.

On July 5, in a rare event for South Whidbey, the 9/10 Little League All Star games will be played at Langley’s Community Park and Falcon Field at the high school.

“Eight teams from District 11 have been invited, so there should be some quality action on the diamond,” Patterson said.

To learn more about Little League, visit www.eteamz.com/swllb.

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