After dealing with canceled games last year due to COVID-19, Eastlake Little League came back resoundingly by clinching a statewide championship for the Majors Baseball division on July 26.
During their championship game against Lake Stevens Little League, Eastlake won in a 6-0 shutout. Now, as the Majors Baseball Washington state champions, they have punched a ticket to the regional tournament.
Out of the six runs, Eli Jones scored two. In addition, Logan Rausch, Kellen Kinney, James Ort III and Sule Tian scored one run each.
On the pitching side, starting pitcher Sanath Chari and pitcher Eli Jones dominated the mound and together struck out fourteen of the fifteen possible strikeouts in the game, keeping Lake Stevens scoreless.
“I feel really good about the game. It was probably the most solid game the team played together,” said Chari, who pitched for five out of six innings and had eleven strikeouts.
He partially credits the “really good” defense behind him for the success.
“We had a lot of great contributions from the bottom half [that were] key for driving more runs over the board,” said Rich Todd, the team manager.
This victory was especially important when considering the challenges that the team dealt with during the season.
Even as much of the state reopened in June and July of 2020, the team had faced several restrictions, including social distancing and the wearing of face masks during practice.
These adverse practice conditions made it difficult to predict how this year’s Little League would operate.
“[We] didn’t even know if we would have a season this year,” Todd said. “[We] had to wear masks while playing and were pretty limited on making sure coaches stayed a certain distance from players.”
With these challenges, the community stepped up to help the team succeed. Todd said parents served an important role during this season, making sure to shuttle their children to practice and games individually due to the need for social distancing, and ensuring their kids came with proper equipment including masks and hand sanitizer.
Although overall registrations for Eastlake declined this year, many “hardcore players” opted to still play, which meant the team had a concentration of high-quality players that set them up to be competitive this season, according to Todd.
From here, the Eastlake team will travel to San Bernardino, California, to play in the Northwest Regional Tournament from August 8 to 14. The tournament will involve teams from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska and Montana. The team’s first game will be on August 8 against the Oregon Lake Oswego team, with the opening pitch at 12:00 p.m.
The top two teams from the regional competition will go on to play at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, starting August 19.
Fans can watch Eastlake Little League’s regional games on ESPN+. Information about the tournament and its broadcast schedule can be found here.