Rainier Little League All Stars make progress at State District 7 All-Star Tournament

Rainier District Little League opened play in the Washington State District 7 All-Star Tournament at PacWest Fields in Burien this past weekend, with its team of nine and 10-year-olds leading the way with strong play against similarly-aged all-star teams from Renton and Southwest Seattle. The 9-10 team opened the tournament with a heartbreaking, late inning loss to Renton, 7-6, but rebounded with a convincing 11-2 victory over Southwest Seattle the next day.

Coached by Max Melendez, Paul Tan and Tracy Clairemont, the 9-10 team jumped out to an early 6-0 lead against Renton on Saturday, behind the strong pitching of Zubin Kopischke. In the fourth inning, a combination of errors and tough plays allowed Renton to creep back into the game, but John Reynolds pitched a scoreless fifth, and the Rainiers took a 7-4 lead into the final frame. Marshall Clairemont came in to close for the locals, but a couple errors plus a walk loaded the bases for Renton. Matt Kuech then sliced a fly ball down the right field line that was just fair, and when the Rainier's throw to home was late, Renton won 8-7.

It's always tough to bounce back from a late-inning loss, but baseball is a game of redemption and the Rainiers redeemed themselves in spades the next day, thoroughly dominating an All-Star squad from Southwest Seattle 11-2. Kopischke again led the way with four innings of brilliant starting pitching, while Arius "Big Boi" Willis and Peter Cormier, Jr., finished out the game on the mound.

On the offensive side, John Reynolds crushed a two run homer, and Willis stroked a run-scoring double in the victory. Defensively, Geno Rosso made a couple great plays at second, while Cormier, playing in the outfield, threw out a Southwest Seattle runner at first base to rob him of a sure single. Overall, the Rainier coaches credited the team's strong defensive play on Sunday as the difference between victory on Sunday and the previous day's crushing loss.

The final roster for the Rainier 9-10 team consists of Raphi Smither, Carsten Rossen, Zubin Kopischke, Marchall Clairemont, Eli Tan, Max Melendez, John Reynolds, Jade Lloyd, Matt Sadang, Arius Willis, Cassius Pumphrey, Shiloh Bowen, Geno Rosso and Peter Cormier, Jr.

Things got off to a rougher start for Rainier's 10-11 team, as they dropped a opening round contest to a tough South Highline Nationals squad on Sunday, 15-1. In the game, the 10-11 team was held to one hit, a second inning single to Gabe Rodriguez.

The Rainiers scored their only run when an errant pick-off throw allowed pinch-runner Will McDonald to score all the way from first base. Travis Logan and Deion Lam pitched effectively for the Rainier, but in between the Nationals stroked four over-the-fence homeruns to pace the way to victory.

Both the 9-10 and 10-11 teams continued All-Star play at PacWest Fields on June 23 and 24, but the results were yet to be determined at press time.

Washington State's District 7 Little League is comprised of teams from the South Highline, Renton, West Seattle, Rainier, Southwest Seattle and Seattle Central District area. The 11-12 teams get their tournament underway this coming weekend at Bar-S Fields in West Seattle.

Summer All-Stars is one of the highlights of the year for those Little Leaguers fortunate enough to participate. Each player receives a uniform with his or her name on the back, and is individually introduced by way of a public address system before the game on the field, and prior to each at-bat, just like the pros. While the games are usually tougher on the parents than they are on the kids, the smiles on the players' faces as they run out onto the field after hearing their names announced on the loudspeaker makes it all worth it.

Lee Jacobson may be reached via editor@sdistrictjournal.com.

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