Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Lake Washington earned the 3A state title May 25. The team members, kneeling from left, are Caden Fenberg, Ben Chorlton, Ricky Koishida, Jose Vizcarra, Nick Anderson, Wei-Ly Hsue, and Lane Kraabel; standing are assistant coaches Nick Pizzuto and Jared Neyens, I-Ly Hsue, Sam Biggers, Jordan Sacks, Travis Lee, Dylan Kennedy, Ryan Macomber, Jesus Vizcarro, Andrew Urrutia, James Gardner, Ryan Thomson, Torin Montgomery, Oliver Laufman, Nation Wood, head coach Derek Bingham, and assistant coach Don Howarth.
Team previously won 41st annual Morenci Lions Club Invitational
By Raymundo Frasquillo
WASHINGTON – Six weeks after earning the 41st Morenci Lions Club Invitational baseball tournament title, the first-time entrant Kirkland Lake Washington Kangaroos ended their season as champions and took home the Washington 3A state title.
It was the third of the dozen Lions tourney teams to finish as state finalists. Heber Mogollon was the 1A champion and Morenci the 2A runner-up in Arizona. Through the previous 40 tourneys, 24 state finalists prepared for the post-season in Morenci, 14 ended as state champions.
Who would step up and make the deciding play, the catcher, the pitcher, an infielder, an outfielder, a pinch hitter, or a courtesy runner? After 27 games, each was well prepared to do his best when the moment came.
With one out, runners on first and second in the bottom of the seventh, a grounder to the right side of the infield was thrown to the covering shortstop who stepped on the bag for the force out and relayed it to third, tagging the runner to end the game.
The Kangaroos (26-2 overall) slipped past the Seattle O’Dea Fighting Irish 3-2, using a second-to-short-to-third (4-6-5) double play in the bottom of the seventh inning to secure the win. It was the second state title in four years for the nearly 1,600 enrollment school, also winning in 2016.
Team LW took a 2-0 advantage after two plate appearances, coming home on an infielder error and on a passed ball. A third run was added on a sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth inning. The 3-0 advantage did not last long as O’Dea singled in a pair of runs to narrow the deficit in the bottom of the frame.
Lake Washington was unable to score during its final plate appearance, so its defense would have to do the job, and it did.
The top-rated Kangaroos dispatched the Kennewick Kamiakin Braves (20-3) 10-4 in the state tourney first round and the Mead Mount Spokane Wildcats (22-3) 10-2 in the quarterfinals May 18, and the Gig Harbor Tides (16-7) 7-0 in the semifinals May 24.
O’Dea (21-3) ousted the Arlington Eagles (23-2) 7-6 in the first round, the Peninsula Seahawks (19-7) 12-4 in the quarterfinals, and the Olympia Capital Cougars (13-12) 3-0 in the semifinals.
Gig Harbor defeated Capital 11-4 for third place.
Members of the state championship team are seniors Nick Anderson, Ben Chorlton, I-Ly Hsue, Colton Kennedy, Dylan Kennedy, Ricky Koishida, Oliver Laufman, Travis Lee, Ryan Macomber, Torin Montgomery, Andrew Urrutia, Jesus Vizcarra, Jose Vizcarra, and Nation Wood; juniors Sam Biggers, Caden Fenberg, James Gardner, Lane Kraabel, Jordan Sacks, Ryan Thomson, Kobe Westre; and sophomore Wei-Ly Hsue.
Assisting 15-year head coach Derek Bingham (254-107 overall, 175-60 district, 12-6 state playoffs) are Don Howarth (14 years), Nick Pizzuto (2 years), and Jared Neyens (2 years).
The next challenge for the Kangaroos is school finals June 10-14. Graduation is on June 17.
“I still don’t know why they wanted to come to our tournament,” Morenci athletic director Frank Ogas said. “I got a message in December (2018) asking if they could come and I said sure.”
“We got out a map, threw a dart . . . Morenci, they got a baseball field there? We’ll play there,” quipped assistant coach Nick Pizzuto. “We had a lot of bake sales (to raise money for the trip).”
Lake Washington made a previous trip to the Grand Canyon State, going 2-3 in Tucson High’s Chris Moon Memorial Tourney during 2011.
Head coach Derek Bingham tried to get his players the best competition possible. The team has made several trips during his tenure, touring collegiate sites as part of the journey.
Facility upgrades were made in years the Kangaroos stayed home.
“It is a life experience,” assistant coach Don Howarth said. “The boys play smart.”
Lake Washington took its spring break in Arizona and “schooled” the 41st Morenci Lions Tourney field.
“It will elevate everyone,” Ogas said. “The teams will get better because of it.”
The Emerald City suburb team rolled over four opponents en route to the Morenci tourney title, posting 45 hits in scoring 50 runs and committing seven errors compared to six hits, five runs, and 12 for their combined opponents. Saint Johns fell 11-3 in five innings, Safford 7-0 (6 inn.), Thatcher 17-1 (5 inn.), and host Morenci 15-1 (5 inn.).
An “explosive” Kangaroos offense scored seven runs against Thatcher and eight against both Saint Johns and Morenci, having notched 15 runs against a Washington opponent in a single inning earlier in the season.
Four Kangaroos made the all-tournament team in Morenci, senior outfielder Ricky Koishida, junior pitcher Lane Kraabel, senior infielder Travis Lee, and senior outfielder Nation Wood. Additionally, Wood received the Daniel Lopez Most Valuable Player Award and senior infielder Torin Montgomery the Robert Sotelo Sportsmanship Award.
As dominant as the Evergreen State entrant was in Morenci during April, the Kangaroos were in a must-win district tourney game, winning 2-1 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning May 11, to qualify for the state meet.
The Kangaroos dropped a 5-4 district tourney pairing in the opening round to No. 4 Mercer Island as the No. 1 seed May 4 and eliminated both No. 2 Juanita 12-6 in the next round May 6 and No. 3 Interlake 10-0 in five innings May 8. Mercer Island defeated Interlake 10-3 May 6 for the district title and automatic state tourney berth.
Team LW needed a KingCo – Metro crossover 2-1 win over Sammamish Eastside Catholic on May 11, the team handing it a 3-1 loss on April 6, to continue playing.
The three-day tournament is the Morenci Lions Club’s largest fundraiser of the year. The service group provides a venue to make dreams come true, not only for the participants and spectators but for those needing aid with vision problems in Greenlee County. A week-long camp for special needs youngsters ages seven and up is also financed by the group. All proceeds from this athletic meet go towards that end. The club treasurer reported a net intake of $9,000 after the final bills were received for the 2018 tournament, with $4,000 immediately ear-marked for student scholarships.
Following a recent meeting, the 2019 tournament’s net earnings were projected to be in the same neighborhood as in 2018. Final bills had yet to be received.
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