South Whidbey Little Leaguers face tough competition at state

Brent Batchelor walks away from the plate in disappointment during South Whidbey’s opening round loss to Cascade in the state playoffs.

It had only been a couple of days after the season had ended and Brent Batchelor was already missing baseball.

Perhaps he was envious of the other Little Leaguers whose seasons continued after South Whidbey’s 11/12 All-Stars were eliminated from the 2015 state playoffs, which was held July 27 to Aug. 1 at the Northshore Athletic Fields in Woodinville.

Maybe it was because of the disappointment Batchelor felt when he thought of how he and his team played at state, considering what they had been able to accomplish when they won the District 11 tournament on July 16.

Or, more simply than that, he’s just a kid who truly enjoys the sport.

“I’m really missing baseball. I just love the game,” Batchelor said.

It was a tough pill for South Whidbey to swallow after losing 21-0 to eventual champion Cascade in the opening round. Some flaring nerves and a turbulent first inning caused things to spiral out of control early.

Cascade scored 14 runs in the first inning, which head coach James Petty called a “crushing thing,” because of the difficulty in starting off the tournament on such a low. They had an opportunity to escape the inning with little damage, but errors by South Whidbey kept them in the sights of Cascade’s hitters.

“We should have successfully got out of that inning, but there were errors on our part,” Petty said. “You could see the nervousness and they weren’t playing as well has they knew they could.”

Despite a tough opening performance, Petty felt they had a better matchup with Gig Harbor in the losers’ bracket.

Gig Harbor scored two runs in the first, but did most of its damage later during a seven-run fourth to end the game on a mercy rule.

“The batters we faced were much more seasoned, not only in the box, but they’re experienced with seeing the different pitches,” Petty said. “They were very calm and patient and worked the pitches very well.”

“Our guys don’t see a lot of the stuff these kids see on a week-to-week basis playing baseball,” he said.

South Whidbey pitcher and shortstop Drew Fry took note of the attitude teams carried at state.

“It was a lot different than playing on South Whidbey,” Fry said. “Everyone is better. They make a bigger deal of baseball.”

Fry, Batchelor, and Petty, though disappointed with how things went at state, understood the context of the situation. Teams like Cascade, which will play in the ESPN-televised Little League Baseball Northwest Regional Tournament in San Bernardino, Calif., on Aug. 9 have a far larger selection pool to draw from. South Whidbey was the smallest community to compete at state, according to Petty. Other teams are also better funded and could compete more often with top teams in the state during regular season play.

But no matter how good or bad South Whidbey played at state, nothing can take away from what they were able to accomplish.

“Not many kids from South Whidbey get to go to state,” Fry said.

Batchelor said it was an “awesome” experience having qualified and played at state.

“I’m still very proud of our team,” he said. “It was awesome how we got to state and how we did this year.”

Petty was proud of what the team had accomplished this year and hopes the players will continue having success in the future.

“They were a good group of kids,” Petty said. “They had a good attitude, they loved to learn. and they loved the game.”