LITTLE LEAGUE: Federal Way National 9-10 all stars win state championship

The Federal Way National Little League 9-10-year-old all-star team won the Washington State Championship Sunday with a 7-1 win over Salmon Creek in Auburn.  - Courtesy photo
The Federal Way National Little League 9-10-year-old all-star team won the Washington State Championship Sunday with a 7-1 win over Salmon Creek in Auburn.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The Federal Way National Little League 9- and 10-year-old baseball team is the best in Washington.

National ended its impressive run Sunday afternoon with a 7-1 win over Salmon Creek Little League to win the 2012 Washington State Tournament at Auburn's GSA Park. The state title for Federal Way comes after the team won the District 10 championship earlier in the month. It was also the second-straight trip to state for National, who finished as the runner-up last season.

“This was a great run and championship for this team, our league, these kids and their families, and the community," said head coach John Sugg. "They’ve worked really hard over the past couple of years since they were little guys to get a chance to do something like this. It’s pretty special stuff that they will always have as a childhood memory, the friendships and memories these guys have are the best part of it."

It was the third meeting at the state tournament between Federal Way and Salmon Creek, who hail from the Vancouver area, with National winning two. Federal Way rolled through the winner's bracket with a perfect 4-0 record heading into the championship, forcing Salmon Creek to beat them twice.

In the first title game Saturday, National was blown out, 10-0, after Federal Way pitchers allowed 12 walks. The usually potent National offense could only muster three hits.

The turning point in the game came in the second inning when Salmon Creek sent 14 hitters to the plate and tallied eight runs on two hits and nine walks.

"I don't think we walked nine guys in district and state combined before this game," Sugg said. "It was not the best day for our pitching staff."

But it was a different story a day later when Federal Way National got a strong pitching performance from Nate Clow and Carter Berry. Clow threw the first four inning, yielding one run on just three hits, striking out eight. Berry closed out the final two innings, retiring six of the eight batters he faced.

“(Salmon Creek) was tough, they made Nate work," Sugg said. "Nate got the outs but they were expensive. They were relentless and fouled off many pitches. They only scored one run, but made us work harder than the box score will show."

After Salmon Creek tallied the first run of the game in the first inning, Federal Way tallied the final seven to win the state title.

After an RBI groundout by Abiel Gonzalez in the bottom of the first, National broke the game open in the third inning to take a 6-1 lead. Connor Ellingson had a one-out single to score Colin Heffernan and Cole Bakker and Berry later followed with another two-run single. Judah Graham worked an RBI walk to tally the other run for National. Federal Way added an insurance run in the fifth when Adam Taylor scored on a groundout.

This year's Federal Way National team included Elijah Bakam, Cole Bakker, Carter Berry, Nate Clow, Connor Ellingson, Abiel Gonzales, Judah Graham, Colin Heffernan, Tyler Hoeft, Spencer Sugg, Adam Taylor and Zachary Yoon.

Sugg was assisted on the coaching staff by Steve Pearson, Bryan Bakker, Harvey Markey and Bob Beck.

In other state tournament action:

Federal Way 8, Eastlake LL 3 (July 19)

National earned the berth into the championship by beating up Eastlake Little League from the Redmond area.

Federal Way looked like they were going to blow things open in the first inning. They loaded the bases with no outs after three-straight singles. But were unable to push a run across.

“A lot of teams would have been psyched out from losing out on that opportunity, but our guys knew that it meant we could score a lot if we kept hitting," Sugg said.

National did exactly that with four runs in the second inning on six hits, including RBIs from Spencer Sugg, Bakam, Bakker and Clow.

Eastlake closed the game to 4-3 in the bottom of the fourth, but Federal Way tallied three runs in the fifth to put the game away.

Clow threw the first four innings on the mound and was relieved by Ellingson.

Federal Way 8, Salmon Creek 4 (July 17)

The semifinal was a "grind out" game for National.

“We kept hitting the ketchup bottle and not much came out," Sugg said. "But these boys are tough and they were determined to find a way. (It) was not pretty, but we got the result we came for."

Federal Way jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first on RBIs from Clow and Hoeft. National continued to put on the pressure and opened up an 8-2 lead in the fifth inning on RBIs from Bakker, Clow, Spencer Sugg, Yoon and two from Heffernan. Clow finished 3 for 4 and Bakker was 2 for 4 on the day.

Ellingson got the start on the mound and went 2-plus innings, yielding one run on no hits. Berry went the remaining four innings, scattering seven hits.

Federal Way 6, Pacific 2 (July 15)

In their second game of the tournament, Federal Way got by Pacific, who hail from the Lynwood area. National got 5 1/3 innings of solid pitching from Clow, who surrounded six hits and had four strikeouts.

Federal Way got on the scoreboard first on a two-out, two-run triple by Ellingson in the third inning.

“Connor worked himself a 3-1 count and gave himself a chance to get a great pitch and took advantage of it," Sugg said. "His discipline early in the count allowed for the big hit”.

Federal Way added a run in the fourth on a Heffernan hit and Ellingson scored in the fifth to make it 4-0.

Pacific scored two runs in the fifth, before National added two insurance runs in the sixth on RBI singles from Clow and Ellingson.

Federal Way 11, Spokane South 2 (July 14)

National opened the 2012 state tournament at GSA Park in Auburn with an impressive win over Spokane South. Federal Way was never really in trouble against Spokane.

Gonzales had a two-run single in the first inning and another RBI in the third. Federal Way led 5-0 after three and added three more runs in the fourth to take an 8-0 lead.

Ellingson finished with four RBIs on the game and four pitchers shared the load for Federal Way — Heffernan, Berry, Taylor and Bakker.

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