North Whidbey goes to state in Senior Little League

The North Whidbey Senior Little League All-Stars rode two sterling pitching performances, heads-up base running and timely hitting this week to a berth in the state tournament.

On Tuesday, South Skagit found North Whidbey’s pitcher, Andrew Rathbun, literally unhittable. Rathbun bested Skagit’s highly-touted Ben Malloy in a classic mound duel of hard-throwers.

“We got two hits and they got none,” summarized North Whidbey manager Scott Lange. South Skagit’s one unearned run came early, and the teams entered the seventh and final frame with the score tied 1-1.

In the bottom of the seventh North Whidbey put a man on third, but he was injured sliding in. That resulted in a rulebook oddity as Lange had used all his players. “I’d used everyone — there were no legal subs,” he said. In that case, the rules allow the opposing coach to pick the runner for the other team. The Skagit coach picked the wrong guy off North Whidbey’s bench.

Into the game to run went Kyle Lange, the coach’s son. “He looked slow,” laughed his dad. But Kyle was faster than he looked. He took a good lead and when the next pitch bounced away from the catcher he headed home. The catcher retrieved the ball but Kyle’s head-first slide barely eluded the tag, giving North Whidbey the victory.

The manager credited the defense with a “phenomenal game,” highlighted by a double-play started by shortstop Tom Clark to kill a South Skagit scoring threat.

The victory sent North Whidbey into Wednesday night’s championship game at Sherman Adams Field in Mount Vernon. This time Tom Clark pitched and he too turned in a spectacular performance, giving up only one run in a complete game gem that included 9 strikeouts with only 2 hits and 1 walk.

In the remarkable fifth inning Clark threw nine pitches and chalked up three strikeouts. Each if the victims was caught looking on a third strike. “He’s got a beautiful curveball,” explained Lange.

Clark also enjoyed a lot of bat support as North Whidbey pounded out 14-runs for the easy 14-1 win. The team hammered the opposition mostly with timely singles. Richard Cline went 3-for-5 with 1 RBI, Mark Radach 3-for-5 with 3 RBI, and Drew Richardson 3-for-5 with 2 RBI. Clark delivered a RBI double in the sixth. Defensively, North Whidbey turned in an errorless performance. The game was called after six innings due to the 10-run lead rule.

The twin wins send the North Whidbey team of 15 and 16-year-olds into the Little League state tournament comprised of eight district champions. Their first game will be Tuesday, June 16 at 7 p.m. at Lynnwood High School, located across from Alderwood Mall.

The tournament champion will advance to regionals in Montana.

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