World Series bound: Eastlake all-stars shine at regionals
August 12, 2013
By Neil Pierson
After a thrilling semifinal victory that came in its last at-bat, the Northwest Regional championship game turned out to be rather anti-climactic for the Eastlake Little League all-stars.
Eastlake needed a sixth-inning rally to defeat Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, on Aug. 8, but things weren’t so hair-raising in the Aug. 10 title game. Eastlake scored six times in the first inning and walloped Big Sky Little League, of Billings, Mont., 13-1, in four innings at Al Houghton Stadium in San Bernardino, Calif.
Not content with earning the program’s first regional berth, the Eastlake players are heading to the Little League World Series this week in South Williamsport, Pa. They’ll open the double-elimination tourney Aug. 15 with a noon start against Universal Little League, of Corpus Christi, Texas.
The World Series, which includes eight U.S. teams and eight international teams, concludes Aug. 25 with a nationally-televised title game at Howard J. Lamade Stadium.
Reached by phone from Pennsylvania on Aug. 12, manager Rob Chandler said the Eastlake players were being treated well in preparation for the biggest event of their lives.
“It’s probably the nicest baseball facility I’ve seen in my life, bar none,” he said.
Eastlake very nearly didn’t get to the World Series. In the semifinals, they trailed Idaho 4-3 entering the bottom of the sixth, even though starting pitcher Jacob Dahlstrom held the opposition hitless. Idaho scored all of its runs in the second inning when Dahlstrom struggled with his control, using a hit batter, a walk, two errors and two wild pitches to grab a 4-1 lead.
Jack Matheson’s double in the fourth helped Eastlake draw within 4-2, and Dalton Chandler’s RBI double made it 4-3 in the fifth.
That set the stage for Austin Oh’s heroics in the sixth. The second baseman, who had missed the district and state tournaments with a broken arm, singled to center and tied the score. With Bryce Delay at the plate, a wild pitch scored Jack Titus with the winning run.
“I think that’s their fifth game of coming from behind to win,” Rob Chandler said. “They just continue and continue to deliver when the game is on the line.”
That propelled Eastlake into the championship game, and they made quick work of Montana, a team they’d handled easily during pool play.
Oh starred again, clearing the bases with a first-inning triple and later adding a two-run double. Dahlstrom’s 278-foot homer gave Eastlake an 11-1 lead in the third, which helped end the game early on the 10-run mercy rule.
Rob Chandler said it was nice to see Oh get a chance to not only play, but showcase his talent.
“He’s always been a very good player for us, but it was just unfortunate that he broke his arm,” Chandler said. “He’s back at full speed now and we’re happy to have him.”
Matheson handcuffed Montana, allowing four hits, two walks and one unearned run. He struck out seven hitters.
Although it wasn’t as important as the semifinal comeback, Eastlake also staged an impressive rally in its pool-play finale Aug. 6 against Lake Oswego, Ore.
Oregon led the entire game, and was on the brink of victory with a 5-3 edge entering the sixth inning. The first two batters recorded outs, but then Eastlake came alive.
Dylan Matsuoka drew a walk, and Delay singled. Jack Carper then doubled to score pinch runner Jack Rud, and Dalton Chandler walked to load the bases.
Will Armbruester’s single to center tied the score, 5-5, and brought up the power-hitting Dahlstrom, who crushed a grand slam. Matheson retired Lake Oswego in order in the bottom of the frame to complete the 9-5 win.
Rob Chandler had his staff on 20-pitch limits for much of regionals, but with the importance of the games magnified at the World Series, he might change tactics.
“It’s a double-elimination tournament, so we have to go full guns blazing right out of the gate,” he said.
The Eastlake all-stars are the 10th team from Washington — and the first since 2010 — to earn a spot at the Little League World Series. The team is looking to raise money for its travel expenses and is accepting donations online at www.gofundme.com/Eastlake12u.