When the Federal Way National Little League Giants finally recorded the third out in the top of the first inning Tuesday, they slowly jogged to the third base dugout in disbelief after what occurred.
Their opponent, the Steel Lake Little League Braves had just hung four runs on the Giants, before a single out was even made. The Braves’ opening act was capped by a three-run home run by Thomas Jefferson High School-bound Drew Delacruz, younger brother of Jefferson baseball’s Mason Delacruz.
When Federal Way manager Doug Orchard called his team together, he asked them a question.
“I asked, ‘How many of you believe this game is already over?’” he said. “I had to do something to get them to realize it was just the first inning. I wanted to remind them that there were so many at-bats left. We hadn’t even had our own to get some runs going yet. It was good to see them respond, and their bats came alive immediately.”
The sentiment behind the question fired up the Giants, and, over the course of the next five innings, the team came from behind to beat the Braves, 7-4, at South County Ballfields in the District 10-12U championship game of the Tournament of Champions.
Jaiden Orchard got the Giants on the board in the bottom half of the first inning when he launched a fastball over the left field fence.
Federal Way threatened more runs as Matthew Blackmon walked and Spencer Willhite singled to right field following Orchard’s home run, but Steel Lake pitcher Derrick Butler struck out Sophie Walker to get out of the inning.
Once the Giants showed they were more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the Braves, deficit or not, Federal Way starting pitcher Kenzo Kimura hit his stride. Over the next three innings, Kimura allowed no runs on just three hits.
“Kenzo started off a little nervous, typical for a game like this, but he went out there and battled,” Doug Orchard said. “I think what happened was he started to see his teammates were there for him. After that, he was able to get back to a normal rhythm and throw strikes. By the end, he had a great outing.”
Before the Giants came to the plate in the bottom of the third inning, Doug Orchard called his team together again.
“Still think it’s over?” Doug Orchard asked. He was met with a resounding “no.” Federal Way then promptly started the inning with a double from Jonah Buchan.
For a second time, Jaiden Orchard was given a prime opportunity to produce a run.
And, for a second straight plate appearance, he didn’t disappoint.
After taking a first-pitch fastball for a ball, Jaiden Orchard crushed the next pitch over the left field fence for his second home run, cutting Steel Lake’s lead to just 4-3.
The Giants rode the momentum into the fourth inning, and Jeremiah Henning’s sacrifice fly tied the game at 4.
Isaiah Henning followed his brother with a double, and, with Federal Way in a position to take its first lead of the game, Kimura seized the opportunity with a bloop single to right field.
Federal Way added its final two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning on RBI hits from Andre Jordan and Blackmon.
“They just continued to fight, continued to compete,” Doug Orchard said. “We’ve had [comeback games] like this one this year. It was a big game. They just had to fight and they did.”
The Federal Way Giants sauntered to the dugout with heads down after a tumultuous first inning. Almost two hours later, they celebrated as the District 10-12U champions.
“The great thing about this game is you’re never dead,” Doug Orchard said. “We started out down 4-0. We battled and battled. The kids believed in themselves, they fought, they built confidence, and everything just came to fruition.”