For the second year in a row, the Federal Way National Little League 10- and 11-year-old all-star team can call themselves the District 10 champions.
But winning this year's 10-11 district crown Sunday afternoon wasn't easy for Federal Way National. Second-place Steel Lake Little League pushed them until the end.
Steel Lake came through the loser's bracket to take on National in the championship round. Needing to beat Federal Way twice to claim the District 10 title, Steel Lake handed National its first loss of the tournament Saturday, 9-8, in the first championship game.
“Steel Lake should be commended on their improving over the past year, they beat Kent, Auburn, and us each once during the tournament, they were right there,” said Federal Way coach John Sugg. “Their players worked very hard and should be commended, they will be one of the favorites at the district tournament in 2014."
Steel Lake jumped out to a 7-2 lead entering the bottom of the fifth inning before Federal Way tallied five runs in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game up. The big blow was a three-run home run from Tyler Hoeft.
But Steel Lake responded with two runs in the top of the sixth and held on in the bottom of the inning to force the winner-take-all game Sunday.
For the second day in a row, things started perfectly for Steel Lake, who jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning. But Federal Way followed up by scoring 14 of the next 15 runs to win the district title, 14-4. National's big inning came in the third, when they exploded for eight runs to break a 3-3 tie. Federal Way also scored three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.
The team started their championship run on June 22, beating Kent, Chinook and Steel Lake twice. Steel Lake made it to the championship round by defeating Bonney Lake-Sumner, South Hill, Auburn and Kent in the double-elimination District 10 Tournament.
Up next for Federal Way National is the 10-11 Washington State Tournament, which will kickoff July 20 in Gig Harbor. National will take on the winner of the District 11 tournament at 11:30 a.m.
This year's Federal Way team includes Cole Bakker, David Bedell, Carter Berry, Alex Bradshaw, Connor Ellingson, Abiel Gonzales, Judah Graham, Colin Heffernan, Brady Houston, Tyler Hoeft, Spencer Sugg, Adam Taylor and Zachary Yoon. The team is coached by John Sugg, who is assisted by Steve Pearson, Bryan Bakker, Bob Beck and Harvey Markey.
A large portion of the 2013 National team have actually won three-straight District 10 title. Last season, the National 9-10 team not only won the district tournament, but also took home the state title. They also won the 2011 9-10 District 10 championship.
“Our big game experience was really important to us during the tournament. We have some first-year, second-year and third-year guys that have walked this process. The experience in these type of games is really valuable and helps when the games get close and the crowds get louder. Some players have a tough time when it gets like that”
Steel Lake's team included Jack Arsenian, Zach Chanes, Jack Ellis, Marcus Lacey, Justin Maggerise, Ryan Oka, Elyas Poore, Marques Richards, Justin Sanders, Jeffrey Sichmeller, Connor Smith and Justin Tokunaga. The team is coached by Jim Chanes, who is assisted by Tom Maggerise and Jeff Sichmeller.