A diving catch by right fielder Bryce Pennock that resulted in a doubleplay and a solid hit by Garrett Kamkoff, which brought two runners home, were just two of a handful of impressive plays that earned the Whatcom Americans baseball team the Cal Ripken 12U state championship title in a 6-1 win over the Port Angeles North Olympic team on Sunday, July 12.
“This is a very special group,” Americans coach Hank Schwarz said. “Don’t be surprised by what this team can do.”
A 15-3 win over Lynden in the morning semifinals at the Phillips66 Sports Complex gave the Americans the momentum they needed to carry into the afternoon.
The Americans started strong in the championship game, as Kobe Sandstrom caught a fly ball for the third out in the top of the first inning.
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Ryan Pelton then scored for the Americans, before Carson Peters followed suit, ending the first inning with another run.
North Olympic scored a run in the second, but the Americans came back with three in the third and didn’t allow another runner to cross home plate.
Things began heating up, literally, as the sun came out midway through the game to dry up the field, which had been left soggy after an hour of light rain following the semifinals.
Nothing seemed able to hold either team back as they entered the championship game. North Olympic was coming off a 4-2 semifinal win over Forks.
Confidence, not cockiness, is what Schwarz said his team is all about. In fact, they were so confident of the Sunday win that Schwarz already reserved hotel rooms in Meridian, Idaho, for the regional championship July 22-25.
Schwarz surprised everyone by announcing a last-minute entry into the First GSL Northwest Regional Baseball Championship July 17-19 in Lacey before the regional. He said he wants to keep his team busy playing baseball and stay focused.
“I’m glad; I want to play again,” Sandstrom said. “I don’t want to take a break.”
Sandstrom and Trent Miller pitched for the Americans in the championship game, and Schwarz heralded their strong showing as an undeniable example of the strength of the team.
“When you give up only one run to a team like that,” Schwarz said, “it shows what we have.”
The Whatcom Americans are a new team, and this was their first state championship win together. Most of the players have won championship titles before with other teams, before they were brought together under the banner of all-Whatcom County.
The Americans are made up of players from the Bellingham, Ferndale, Blaine and Meridian school districts that previously played on separate teams. Bringing the pool of players to choose from together has allowed for baseball in Whatcom County to become more competitive, and Schwarz said he hopes it will set an example in future years to keep growing the program.
“Listen, our journey is not done yet,” he said to the team following their championship win.
He then went on to express immense gratitude the dedication his players showed throughout the season. Schwarz has been coaching this age group for almost 15 years, and he said this is by far the most skilled group he has worked with.
The Pacific Northwest Regional hampion will advance to the World Series Aug. 7-14 in Monticello, Ark.