11-U Tornados fall short in Cal Ripken state tournament

Team loses two of three games


The Nisqually Basin Youth Baseball 11-U Tornados bounced back from a loss in the Cal Ripken state tournament opener by putting together a dazzling display of offensive and defensive fireworks on Thursday, July 4, at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey.

But the sparks ran out in bracket pool play on Friday, July 5, as the Tornados’ state run ended with an 11-1 loss to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) 11-U Lumberjacks.

The Tornados hoped to continue the momentum they built with a Rally in the Valley tournament win in Puyallup the previous weekend, but they stumbled out of the gate in Lacey against the Kennewick Nationals 11-U All-Stars, losing 11-2 on Thursday. The All-Stars only needed four hits to rack up 11 runs, taking advantage of a pair of errors and 11 walks. 

The tides turned in the Tornados’ favor in the second game on Thursday against the KA 11-U All-Stars Red when they capitalized on four errors in a 14-4 rout. Four Tornados registered multiple hits, and four drove in multiple runs, while three pitchers combined to strike out nine batters compared with eight hits and four walks.

“In the second game, they just showed up. From the beginning, they just never skipped a beat. Pitching was on point, and we hit the ball well and played a complete game,” head coach Ben Emmons said of Thursday’s win.

Needing a win to advance to regionals, the Tornados faced the Lumberjacks on Friday and held their own for the better part of five innings. The Lumberjacks scored two runs in the third while the Tornados responded with a run of their own in the top of the fifth as Cason McKee scored on a wild pitch. In the bottom of the fifth, the Lumberjacks blew the game open with nine runs to seal the victory.

“They hit the ball and got a lot of walks, and we didn’t make plays. It was a long weekend. Kids are hot and exhausted. The wheels just came off,” Emmons said of the fifth inning.

Emmons credited his team’s composure and commitment to encouraging teammates despite the lopsided inning. He said the Lumberjacks are an experienced team that has played a lot of baseball while the Tornados are just getting started.

“There’s like five or six of them that just came on the team and started playing,” he said. “I’m really proud of the way they played. The big thing was that I talked to them about there being bigger moments in their life, and it starts with Monday in practice.”

Despite the disappointing finish to the state tournament, Emmons said he is proud of the team’s evolution into a family.

“I told them, ‘I don’t love being your coach because we win every game. I love being your coach because I get to be with you guys,’” he said. “It’s really cool because it’s turning into a baseball family.”

The Tornados will next head to Tacoma on July 20 and July 21 when they will compete in the Greater Seattle League (GSL) Summer Slam. They will then play in the Summer Knights Classic in Federal Way two weeks later.