CHINO HILLS, CALIF. — NK Warriors manager Eric Milyard said when the United States Speciality Sports Association AA World Series kicked off its opening games July 23, there were few teams in attendance that had ever heard of Poulsbo.
This didn’t last long.
The darkhorse North Kitsap squad got off to a sizzling start, clinching a berth in the championship round after compiling a 3-0 record against the Harbor Area Hammers, Riverside Wolves and Manny squad during pool play.
“That’s probably the best baseball we have played all year long. Only 12 out of the 22 teams advanced to the championship round,” Milyard said. “The Manny squad is a two-time California state champion. We played really well. We did all of the little things right.”
He said the goal before the tournament began was to just compete, but once the team found itself in the championship round those goals changed significantly.
“After we went 3-0, we set some higher standards,” he said. “We were going to go after the title.”
In the first game of the championship round, the Warriors suffered a 7-6 defeat against the Puyallup Diamondbacks. The Warriors had a sizable 6-0 lead early in the game.
“It was the third time we have played them this season,” Milyard said of the Diamondbacks. “All of the games we have played against each other could have went either way.”
Milyard said the loss to Puyallup played a role in the Warriors’ loss in the following game against Riverside.
“We had a big lead and lost and then we didn’t get a break and had to turn around and play another game,” he said. “It had an effect on us.”
The 7-3 loss against Riverside ended the Warriors’ tournament run. NK finished with a 3-2 record, but the team hung tough against some of the best baseball youth teams on the West Coast.
“Everyone in this tournament knows where Poulsbo is now,” Milyard said. “We definitely made a name for ourselves. We played some great baseball and had a lot of fun.”
The Warriors ended up taking home a ninth place finish overall at the World Series.
“Getting ninth was pretty good. I think we would have finished in the top five places if we would have beat Puyallup in the first game of the championship round,” Milyard said. “That’s baseball. One game can make or break you.”
Milyard said every player on the Warriors roster this season has a bright future in baseball ahead of them.
“This tournament was a real growing process for them. The only way to get better is to play against good competition in tournaments,” he said. “The goal is to prepare them for high school baseball down the road.”
Players competing in the World Series included Brian Bratlien, Cody Combs, Shane Crowell, K.T. Deam, Eli Fultz, Andrew Mattingly, Josh McLeod, A.J. Milyard, J.T. Nettleton, Ethan Syverson and Jackson Suter.