It was a good day for the Black brothers.
Nick and Alex Black, who play for the Whidbey Crabs’ select baseball team, both contributed walk-off hits on the second day of the Whidbey Baseball Club Invitational this past weekend. The hits secured two victories and a third place finish for the Crabs, who went 2-2 in the four-team tournament on July 22-23 at Community Park and South Whidbey High School
The tournament included the Crabs and three Snohomish 15 and under teams.
Nick Black, 13, broke an 8-8 tie in the bottom of the seventh inning against the Snohomish Stingrays on Sunday morning when his hit over the team’s right field clinched the victory. His older brother Alex, 15, also performed in the clutch when he broke a 7-7 tie in the bottom of the seventh inning to win the second game on Sunday to place third.
Nick Black said he had all but forgotten his game-winning play earlier in the day until a teammate reminded him. He received a ceremonial drenching with a water jug for his efforts.
“It was great, we had a rough start, but we turned it around,” Nick Black said.
“It was a pretty good feeling that my brother and I did that for our team,” Alex Black added.
The Crabs hosted the new tournament out of a desire to play more games at the end of the season, head coach Josh Coleman said. Coleman was glad the Crabs could play some more baseball before the season ended.
“I think they learn something every time they play,” Coleman said. “They are pretty receptive and all pretty coachable. I think more importantly it was good for them to be out there again.”
In some respects, the Crabs were the underdogs. While the Snohomish teams had mostly 15 year olds, the Crabs scratched together a team ranging in ages from 12 to 15. The Crabs also played a shortened season this year, having taken a month off prior to the tournament, while the Snohomish teams were coming off a 30-game season. Coleman was optimistic that the Crabs could hold their own despite the age gap.
The first day of the tournament, however, was rough. The Crabs lost to the Snohomish Pilchuckers 8-5 in the first round of the tournament after leading 5-0. The Crabs were shutout 7-0 in the following game against the Royals, the eventual champions of the tournament.
Brent Batchelor, a 15-year-old pitcher and first baseman for the Crabs, said nerves and being rusty were major culprits in their two losses on Saturday. He added that it was a learning experience the Crabs needed to give them a boost in their games on Sunday.
“I think that’s what really gave us the two wins that put us in third,” Batchelor said.
Despite the shaky start, the Crabs showed they had fight in them in the following two games, Batchelor said. The Crabs trailed by three runs entering the bottom of the seventh inning in their first game against the Stingrays. The Crabs loaded the bases with no outs and Dexter Jokinen hit a three-run double to tie the game. Nick Black scored Jokinen from third base for the win.
In the third-fourth place game, the Crabs led for most the contest until the top of the seventh inning when the Stingrays tied things up. Luke Rookstool reached first on a leadoff hit and stole to second. Alex Black’s game-winning hit scored Rookstool from second to home.
“It was awesome,” Coleman said. “It was encouraging to see that they kept grinding and didn’t get down on themselves. Everybody stayed up.”
“The team, the guys, they love to play baseball,” he added.