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Togetherness helps teams qualify for state | Little League
Three Whidbey teams qualified for their respective state Little League tournaments this summer, and there is no secret behind their success -- team unity.
The teams and their “all for one” attitudes begin double-elimination state tournament play today (Saturday, July 12).
The Central Whidbey 9/10 softball team, which also includes two girls from South Whidbey, faces Woodinville at 3 p.m. in Asotin in the 10-team tournament.
The Central Whidbey 13/14 softball team, which includes one South Whidbey player, gets to play closer to home. The Venom travel to Shoreline’s Meridian Park to meet Ridgefield at 4 p.m. in an eight-team tournament.
North Whidbey’s 9/10 baseball team journeys to the Tri-Cities for its 12-team tournament and will meet the District 1 champion at 4 p.m. at Richland’s Badger Mountain Park.
One other Whidbey team could also earn a state berth. The 10/11 North Whidbey baseball team plays a best-of-three series with Sedro-Woolley for the District 11 championship starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, July 12, at Oak Harbor’s Windjammer Park. The second game is 1 p.m. Sunday, and the third, if necessary, will be at 6 p.m. Monday.
The state 10/11 baseball tournament begins Saturday, July 19, in Chehalis.
Even 10-year-olds understand the importance of team chemistry.
So, why was the team so dominate in the district tournament, winning its three games by an average score of 17-5?
“We mesh well together,” Mollie Bailey said. “We don’t disagree.”
Coral Caveness echoed that statement: “We work well together; we don’t fight like some other teams.”
“We get along,” Stella Johnson added.
Head coach Lark Gustafson said his club is “cohesive” and has “some good, talented players.”
“We have solid pitching with Chelsea (Prescott) and a combination of kids that works,” he added.
Bailey said, “The coaches have put us in the area we are strongest at.”
Gustafson is concerned about the heat in Asotin, which borders Idaho in the Southeast corner of Washington. Temperatures are forecasted to hit triple digits.
Prescott said the heat should be “no big deal” because the team will be focused on playing.
The young Wolves agreed the trip should be a kick regardless of the outcome of the games.
“Just the fact that we are going to state is amazing,” Bailey said.
“We get to camp or stay in a hotel and play with our families and friends,” Caveness said. “Win or lose, it doesn’t matter, because we will have fun.”
Make no mistake, they are in it to win.
“We are doing so good, I know we are going to beat some teams,” Johnson said.
Bailey said, for an added bonus, “If we win our first game, we will play our next game on my birthday (July 15).”
This is the second trip to state for Bailey and Prescott. They were members of a combined team with North Whidbey that qualified last year.
“Teamwork, without a doubt, is our strength,” coach Kevin McGranahan said. “These girls grew up together.”
Katrina McGranahan, the coach’s daughter, said, “We are all friends; we are close outside of softball.”
“We all work well together,” Sarah Wright said.
Central Whidbey is undefeated (17-0) and has not been challenged this year; no team has been closer than 10 runs. The lack of competition and how his team will handle adversity is “a concern,” coach McGranahan said. “But this team has always battled back.”
Katrina McGranahan said a close game could be good, forcing the team to play with more effort. If things get rocky, “the team will come together, they always do.”
The goal at state is “to play hard,” according to Wright.
Katrina McGranahan added, “To have fun and not let anyone hang their heads.”
Coach McGranahan said qualifying for state has already made this a successful season, but getting “one win would be nice.”
When Jackson Biggs, Colton Byars and Cody Duchnowski explained their team’s success, they didn’t mention unity, they showed it -- they kept finishing one another’s sentences.
How will you do at the tournament?
“We will win…” (Biggs)
“…every game…” (Duchnowski)
“…by one run…” (Byars)
“…or more” (Biggs).
Byars’ comment about winning by one run was in reference to the team’s recent district tournament experience. On the way to taking the title, North Whidbey won all four of its games by a single run.
“We are good under pressure,” Biggs said.
The close games, they said, helped prepare them for the pressures of the state tournament.
The three said it took a couple of wins at district to realize they had the ability to win the tournament.
“It all started to build up,” Byars said, “and we thought we could get more (wins).”
Qualifying for state is “really cool,” according to Duchnowski, and “amazing,” Biggs said.
What is the team’s strength?
“…yes, defense…” (Duchnowski)
“…and our pitchers starting making them hit ground balls…” (Byars)
“…and pop ups…” (Duchnowski)
“…for easy outs” (Byars).