The sixth inning hasn’t been a problem for South Whidbey’s 11/12 Little League All-Stars.
It’s the other five that have given them trouble.
Luckily for South Whidbey, it’s only cost them one loss in the District 11 All-Stars tournament.
South Whidbey’s latest victory — a 9-7 decision over Central Whidbey on Monday night — puts them at two wins and one loss in the tournament. The team still needs two more wins to reach the championship game.
South Whidbey will face North Whidbey tonight at 6 p.m. at the Parks and Recreation baseball fields.
South Whidbey’s struggles in all but the final inning started against Sedro-Woolley.
That was until Brent Batchelor — a 6-foot-tall 12-year-old — blasted an opposite-field home run to left field to tie the game at 2 in the top of the sixth.
“I was pretty hyped up after that,” Batchelor said. “We were down and I just had to do what was necessary. I tried to get a little under on that inside pitch and just pulled it.”
The glory, however, was short-lived. Sedro’s Boomer Poutry launched a walk-off home run to center field in the bottom of the sixth, giving Sedro a 3-2 victory.
“I think they did well,” said head coach James Petty. “It was just the first half of that first inning that got us.”
Despite the sting of an opening round loss, South Whidbey could still relish in the fact that they had a star amidst their presence during the game.
Retired professional catcher Bengie Molina, a two-time Golden Glove winner whose wife went to South Whidbey High School, threw out the first pitch to commence the game. He also promoted his best-selling book, “Molina: The Story of the Father Who Raised an Unlikely Baseball Dynasty.”
Molina, wearing a blue, South Whidbey baseball cap and a blue South Whidbey All-Stars shirt, stood on the mound and shared with the players a small message on the importance of focusing on success rather than luck to lead you in life.
“It is human nature to believe in something that’s not there,” Molina said. “In my opinion, luck is just a word. If you work hard, if you do all these things that you’re supposed to do…it’s not luck. It’s success.”
Molina signed autographs and spoke about his playing days and current endeavors with spectators and parents. On Friday, Molina visited South Whidbey’s All-Stars during their practice. Batchelor took away a specific message.
“Mostly what teamwork actually means and that to win you need to be a full team,” Batchelor said. “I think that’s what we did (Saturday), we just needed to get a little bit more on the bats.”
On Sunday, South Whidbey faced Anacortes next to avoid elimination.
And again, not much happened on South Whidbey’s end until the sixth.
Trailing 1-0 with two on base, Batchelor took the plate.
Batchelor didn’t hit a homer, but he did launch the ball beyond the reach of Anacortes’ outfielders for a two-run double, pushing South Whidbey ahead, 2-1.
Drew Fry followed with a double to score Batchelor, extending South Whidbey’s lead to 3-1.
Anacortes closed the gap to 3-2 when Hadyn Weaver drove in a RBI single, but it was South Whidbey’s Aidan Donnelly who sealed the game when he chased Gavin More’s fly ball to right field.
Against Central Whidbey, Batchelor hit another home run in the top of the first. Catcher Nick Black hit his first-ever home run, a three-run shot to center field, in the top of the fifth. Central Whidbey closed the gap with a grand slam in the bottom of the fifth, but South Whidbey’s Luke Rookstool shut his opponents down from the mound.