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North Whidbey wins 2 thrillers | 9/10 baseball
Coach Mark Tanner has labeled his North Whidbey Little League 9/10 baseball team the "Cardiac Kids."
The nickname came after two heart-thumping wins in the District 11 tournament at Sedro-Woolley's Kiwanis Fields Saturday and Sunday, June 28 and 29.
North Whidbey dumped Sedro-Woolley 9-6 Saturday and Central Whidbey 10-9 Sunday.
North Whidbey moves on to the semifinals against Burlington-Edison at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 1. Burlington-Edison had a less stressful path, defeating Anacortes 14-7 and South Whidbey 14-2.
Central Whidbey, which had a bye in the first round, drops into the consolation bracket and faces Anacortes at 6 p.m. Monday, June 30, in a loser-out game.
North Whidbey scored five runs in the first inning in both games, saw those leads heart-wrenchingly evaporate, bounced back to win in thrilling fashion behind clutch extra-base hits by Colton Byars and then held on as their opponents threatened in the final inning.
Against Sedro-Woolley, North Whidbey led until the host team tied the game at 6 in the fifth inning and was poised to take the lead.
Sedro-Woolley had the go-ahead runner at third base with one out in the fifth, but North Whidbey survived by picking the runner off to end the threat.
In the top of the sixth inning, Oak Harbor's Byars ripped an inside-the-park home run to spark a three-run rally.
Sedro-Woolley wasn't through. It put two runners on with two outs and blasted a shot to deep center field which was hauled in by Joe Winnenberg for the final out.
To add to the drama, the game had a 45-minute lightning delay.
Cody Duchnowski pitched a scoreless sixth inning for the win in relief of Jackson Biggs and Byars.
The trio pitched "brilliantly," Tanner said, keeping the "hard-hitting Sedro-Woolley offense in check most of the game."
Ben Green guided the offense by going 3-for-3; Duchnowski finished 3-for-4.
"Both teams played their hearts out for six innings," Tanner said. "It's a shame either had to take a loss today."
In Sunday's game, North Whidbey again scored five first-inning runs; this time the opponent eventually took the lead and Oak Harbor had to come from behind to snare the win.
By the third inning, Central Whidbey tied the score at 6, then in the fourth inning went up by two.
Oak Harbor regained the lead, 9-8, with three runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Coupeville countered with a run in the fifth to tie it.
With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Byars slugged a triple, scoring Biggs with the eventual winning run.
Central Whidbey turned up the stress level by putting two on with no outs in the sixth. Tanner turned to Jordan Ronning to quell the threat, and Ronning retired the side in nine pitches.
Ronning received defensive help from catcher Colton Richardson, who nailed a runner trying to steal third, and first baseman Sean Day, who made a diving catch to end the game.
North Whidbey received a "gutsy pitching performance" from Day, Stuart Bassett and Ronning, according to Tanner.
Byars and Richardson each had two hits.
(No Central Whidbey details were submitted.)