Key Peninsula Little League Juniors player Aiden Krug-Norem said coach Greg Vanoverbeke used one word to encourage them throughout practices.
“I thought it was a longshot,” Krug-Norem said a few days before the team traveled to Spokane for the state tournament. “But then something happened, and the team bonded and became like a family. I am so grateful for this opportunity and believe we have what it takes to win with our parents’ support.”
At that time, team members were holding bake sales, car washes, whatever would help raise funds to pay for the team’s trip to state.
“With our parents’ help and support, we truly are already winners,” Krug-Norem said. “I know that going to state will bond me and my teammates even greater and help us to dominate the sport I love, baseball.”
The Key Peninsula Juniors went 2-2 at the state tournament, beating South Skagit 12-2 before a 6-0 loss to powerful West Seattle, a 20-11 victory over Federal Way and a hard-fought 20-3 loss to Lewis River.
What a huge honor! They played their hearts out and walked away, heads held high and looking forward to next year, when they plan to again give it their best shot and walk away with the gold.
“Our team had four 13-year-olds who will be eligible to play Juniors next year, with another good group of players moving into Juniors,” KPLL Juniors’ president Adam Scroggins said. “If the pieces fall into place, we may make another run next year.”
Don’t be modest, Adam!
Player Kelly Polk said the experience wasn’t about really winning.
“The odds were definitely against us, but the experience about state was more about working together as a unit,” Polk said. “For example, our second-to-last game, we were down by three with our heads hung low, but we didn’t want to go home because we were all having so much fun, so we fought back and scored 17 runs in two innings as a team.
“This experience has meant the world to me and has been one of the most fun moments in my entire life.”
Sam Schwenzer said it was a blast to be a first-time all-star.
“We gave it our all and am proud to be part of the KPLL all-star team,” Schwenzer said.
Teammate Jacob Lauridsen has only lived in the state for a year.
“Being with KPLL, I have been given the opportunity to help build an all-star team to be proud of,” he said. “I look forward to playing ball with my brothers in the future.”
Alexander Cottey said none of the players had gone that far in any previous all-star tournament.
“I believe our team has put a lot of heart and dedication into our team, and putting all our passion, dedication and personalities out on the diamond and playing the great game of baseball,” Cottey said. “We’ve put a lot of time and effort into this team, making it the best it can be.”
Cottey’s mom, Jennifer, said watching the team win the district championship and play at state is one of her proudest moments.
“I would lose sleep and drive hundreds of miles to sit at a game to watch my boys play and say, ‘That’s my boy right out there, and I am his mom!’ ” she said.
Noah Endsley has played baseball for six years and said he’s never been part of a team that had worked together as well.
“Being a captain along with Kelly Polk is a great honor to lead such a great group of people,” Endsley said. “I love baseball and hope to continue on with baseball as a career.”
Stephanie Bulman’s son, Noah, played for the team, too. She said she’s been in awe of the boys.
“I have watched them over the last six years and love every one of them and their uniqueness and individual qualities combined, which have created this amazing team,” Bulman said. “There is an undeniable bond these boys have. They are family. The thing that shines brightest in this whirlwind to the state tournament is that these boys have had fun. They have kept it fun. They have had good sportsmanship, been respectful to the teams and families we have faced, and been kind.”
Austyn Thompson has played the sport for 12 years and hadn’t experienced anything like this run to state.
“It is an honor to play out here with my coaches and teammates,” Thompson said. “Baseball is my favorite sport.”
Not everybody goes to state.
Let’s all give a rousing cheer for our kids, who brought this honor to our community.Hugh McMillan is a longtime freelance writer for The Peninsula Gateway. He can be reached at 253-884-3319 or by email at hmcmnp1000@ centurytel.net.