Pacific Little League did it the hard way.
When Pacific lost a second-round game to Federal Way and fell into the losers’ bracket of the Washington State Little League tournament, coach Robley Corsi confidently said that all the loss meant was that his team would have to win a state championship the hard way.
Pacific responded with three victories in three straight loser-out games and then faced the biggest challenge of all: Having to win two games against Federal Way to claim the title Saturday at the Bar-S fields in Seattle.
Behind two superb pitching performances and clutch hit after clutch hit, Pacific edged Federal Way 2-1 in the first game and then stunned their opponent with a 12-2 rout in the second game Saturday afternoon to win Pacific Little League’s first state championship since 1992.
The hard way?
Corsi preferred to describe it as “the fun way” or “the exciting way.”
However he describes this week’s tournament run, the state championship means Pacific is Washington’s representative at the Little League Western Regionals in San Bernardino, Calif.
“We’re going to represent Washington State and we’re going to represent them well,” Corsi said. “Not only are we going to be representing baseball, we’re going to bring our spirit and our team and everything.”
For Pacific’s Karsen Tjarneberg, the opportunity to play in the Western Regionals is a dream come true.
“It’s a once in a lifetime chance,” said Tjarneberg, who picked up the victory in the second game with a four-inning no-hitter. “Hardly any kids can go there. We earned it. We deserved it. We fought through districts. We fought through state and we came through.”
Tjarneberg fought through a difficult first inning that saw him load the bases and give up two runs on a sacrifice fly and a walk.
Those were the only runs Tjarneberg would give up the rest of the afternoon.
“Coach told me to hyper-focus,” Tjarneberg said. “We have a little thing called ‘beat a rubber chicken.’ Just stay loose like a rubber chicken. A rubber chicken is all loose.”
It also helped that Pacific seized the lead in the second inning with eight runs. Two singles and a successful bunt loaded the bases. Pacific tied the score on an error and an RBI single by Matthew Turcotte. Robley Corsi III followed with an RBI single and Colton Walsh drove in two runs with a double. Ian Michael drew a walk to force in a run and then Logan Kruse capped the inning with a double that drove in three runs and gave Pacific an 8-2 lead.
“Everybody wanted to hit and we were relaxed in the box and seeing the ball very well,” Kruse said.
The game unraveled for Federal Way in the fourth inning as Pacific scored four more runs. Tyler Durbin hit a solo home run. Walsh doubled, stole third and scored on a passed ball. Pacific tacked on two more runs via a passed ball and an error.
The inning reminded Corsi of Tuesday’s 13-7 loss to Federal Way in which Pacific made a number of fielding miscues.
“That’s exactly what happened in game one,” he said. “We did the same thing. They took advantage of us. We turned it back and put the ball in play.”
Pacific came into the second game feeling good after pulling out a 2-1 victory in the first game of the day.
“We were real confident,” Kruse said. “We knew we could win now.”
Michael also survived a rocky first inning in which he gave up the only of the game. He pitched until the fifth when Kruse came into to relieve him.
“Ian’s pitching was phenomenal,” Tjarneberg said. “We scratched two runs across and Ian just shut them down and Logan closed it out.”
In the third inning Corsi III doubled, stole third and then scored on a throwing error as Pacific tied the score at 1. The next inning Michael drew a leadoff walk, moved to second after Mason Vaughn also drew a walk. Both runners advanced a base after a passed ball and Michael scored on a sacrifice fly by Read Carr.
“I think what happened is we got ourselves on a roll,” Corsi said. “This train, once it got moving, it didn’t matter where I put people. They came through. We played as a team 100 percent.”
Pacific, representing Washington State, plays Oregon’s representative at 8:30 a.m., Aug. 1 at Houghton Stadium in San Bernardino, Calif. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3, according to Pacific Little League.
– By David Pan