Fists raised in the air and index fingers pointed skyward, the Eastlake 10- and 11-year-old all star baseball team rushed the mound to form a huddle at Auburn’s Sunset Park on Saturday afternoon. For the second straight year, the group from Sammamish celebrated a state title, this time coming from behind to down South Kitsap Western, 9-7.
“It’s hard to describe,” said shortstop Lucas Thrun, grinning ear to ear. “You just have this tingling sensation inside that says it was a great game. Everybody did a great job, and this is a great group of kids.”
Pitcher Austin Hooker agreed.
“It’s great,” he said. “Back-to-back, that’s amazing.”
Nabbing a second straight state title and a perfect 10-0 record through district and state competition was no easy task, however. In fact, South Kitsap, which needed a win to force a winner-take-all game on Sunday, held the lead for most of the contest.
“I thought we were playing tomorrow,” Eastlake head coach Troy Thrun said. “I’ll be honest with you, I thought we were playing tomorrow.”
Eastlake dug itself a 5-0 hole after three innings. South Kitsap got on the board in the first inning with a two-run home run and added three more runs in the bottom of the third.
Eastlake, which only generated two hits in the first three innings, started to find a groove in the top of the fourth. Mitch Augenstein and Scotty Nielsen led the inning off with a single and double, respectively. The next two batters struck out, but Jeffrey Feinglas poked a two-run double to right field to get Eastlake on the board.
“I knew we were being patient at the plate. We were hitting the right pitches we were supposed to hit. You do that long enough and good things start to happen,” Troy Thrun said.
The momentum carried over to the defense and Hooker, who forced a pop out and two ground outs in the bottom half of the inning.
“I was nervous, but I knew our bats would come alive,” Hooker said. “I just got to work as hard as I can — just give it all, leave it all out there on the field and I think I did that.”
Eastlake broke the game open in the fifth inning, rallying for six runs and a 9-5 lead. Four of those runs came with two outs, including an infield RBI single from Hooker, an RBI single from Thrun and a two-run double from Ryan Cornwall. Omar Luqman and Jackson Dahl also had RBI hits in the inning.
Andy Varness came in to relieve Hooker in the sixth and final inning. He forced a ground out and two pop outs, with an RBI single sandwiched in between to earn the save.
“It just feels good to come back and win,” Varness said. “I just wanted to get outs.”
Troy Thrun praised his team’s effort, noting that winning this title along with the 9- and 10-year-old title last year is a great feat.
“Our team is a great, cohesive group,” he said. “The parents too, look at the parents we’ve got. Everybody’s sort of pulling for everybody else. Baseball is kind of nine individuals playing together, and we actually work that together to make a team out of it.”
As for targeting a third straight title when the team moves up to the 11- and 12-year-old major division next year, only time will tell. But Troy Thrun is already excited about the prospects.
“We’ll worry about that Monday,” he said, laughing.
Members of this year’s championship team included: Austin Hooker, Lucas Thrun, Andy Varness, Ryan Cornwall, Mitch Augenstein, Scotty Nielsen, Joe Longcore, Jackson Dahl, Jeffrey Feinglas, Alex Shuey, Omar Luqman and Beau Krueger.