The Bainbridge Island Little Leaguers needed to dip into some of their depth in Saturday’s district championship game against Gig Harbor, and the boys came through with flying colors in an 11-1 victory.
Starting pitcher Ely Olesen had to leave the game in the first inning after getting hit by a hard comebacker on the mound. As one of the team’s top pitchers and leadoff hitter, his presence would be missed, but Bainbridge had the next man up ready to go.
Ryan Rohrbacher came on and pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings, and infielder Grady Hughes stepped in and went 2-for-2 with two singles and scored two runs from the leadoff spot as the team cruised into the state Little League tournament, which will begin July 17 at Hartman Park in Redmond.
“Everyone up and down the lineup has played well and hit,” team manager Jeff D’Amico said. “We haven’t had a chance to use a ton of guys pitching because of run rules, but we’re not scared to put any of our kids in the game.”
Olesen was OK, and eventually returned to the game to play first base; meanwhile, his teammates picked him up, piling on five runs in the first inning.
With Hughes and Rohrbacher on first and second, Zachery Ausmeier drove a hard single to left to bring in his team’s first run. Finn Bryson brought in the next run on a fielder’s choice, and Rowan Grossman’s single then loaded the bases for Caden Willey, who hit a long fly ball to right that was misplayed and plated two more runs. Willey advanced to third and then scored on a throwing error to give Bainbridge a 5-1 lead.
The offense continued to roll as Dominic D’Amico’s sacrifice fly in the second made it 6-1, and Ausmeier knocked in two more on a hard line-drive double to centerfield. Shep Horwitz singled home a run in the third to make it 9-1, and he and D’Amico later scored after an overthrow at third base.
On the mound, Rohrbacher struck out six as he went the rest of the way for Bainbridge. Gig Harbor managed a couple of minor rallies over the final three innings, but a quick strikeout or solid defensive play was able to extinguish them each time.
“It’s a team concept, it’s a community concept,” D’Amico said. “It’s fun to be a part of it.”
The team heads to state hoping to emulate the 2001 Bainbridge team that went to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn.
But there’s still a long path ahead. The team will get a couple of weeks to practice before heading to the state. The Washington winner will advance to the Northwest Regional, which is the tournament that decides the Little League World Series representative from the area.
“It’s not about winning and losing so much as it is about having the opportunity to keep going and competing,” D’Amico said.
Bainbridge’s first regional game is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. July 17 against the representative from District 10, which includes Pierce County and southeastern King County.
Bainbridge 11, Gig Harbor 1
GH 1 0 0 0 — 1 4 3
BI 5 3 3 x — 11 10 0
Pitching — Olesen .2 IP, 2 H, R, 2 K; Rohrbacher 3.1 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 6 K.