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LITTLE LEAGUE: Senior All-Star team nabs District 10 title for the second year in a row
They were down, but far from out.
The Kent Little League Senior All-Stars got off on the wrong foot Wednesday afternoon, losing to Soundview/Steel Lake 16-1 in a third-round game of the District 10 tournament at Auburn's Brannan Park.
Luckily for the Kent team, which ranges in age from 14-16, a second chance quickly followed.
And the Kent Stars made good on that chance, too. Jared Mackie and Sam Burtis combined on the mound for a dominating performance while Kent's bats, which were absent in the opener, came alive to spark an 8-1 victory over Soundview/Steel Lake for the District 10 title.
"Getting blown out like that ... when you lose like that, something just goes wrong," said Kent coach Kevin Vallala. "It was a fluke."
Kent quickly showed just how much of a "fluke" the opening loss to Soundview/Steel Lake was, erupting for five first-inning runs en route to the championship victory. Mackie picked up the win with 4 1/3 innings of solid work, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out two. Burtis picked up the save by striking out three in 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.
The five-run first inning was key for Kent. David Prince and Garrett Robertson started the rally with back-to-back singles to open the inning. Matt Nutting followed with a double off the left-center fence, plating both runners and giving Kent a quick 2-0 lead. DJ Vallala promptly singled home Nutting, pushing Kent's early lead to 3-0. Three batters later, Burtis tripled home Mackie and Dalton Cryderman, giving Kent a 5-0 lead before Soundview even had a chance to swing the bat.
"We needed to jump on them at the beginning of the game just to let them know we were back," Kevin Vallala said.
Kent was indeed back.
In fact, the five runs were all Mackie and Burtis would need. A big key to the victory also was the return of Nutting and Mackie, both of whom were attending a football camp during the first two games of the tournament.
"That was a big key," Vallala said. "That was the spark we needed."
It's the second year in a row the Kent Seniors have won the District 10 crown. With the win, Kent punched its ticket to the state tournament, which will be held from July 17-24 at Redmond's Hartman Park.
"After the game, they threw water on me, were jumping around with the trophy. I got lucky to work with such good kids," Vallala said. "To win it two years in a row, it's incredible."
Adding to the second consecutive title is the fact that only two players — third baseman DJ Vallala and Cryderman, an outfielder — are the only two returning players from last year's squad. Last year's team lost its opener at the state tournament, and rallied to four victories before getting eliminated.
Kent opened the tournament with an 8-1 win over Soundview, then thumped Federal Way 12-2. Soundview would have had to beat Kent twice on Wednesday night to take the crown.
Matthew de Wald picked up the win for Kent in the opening game win while Cryderman notched the win against Federal Way.
In the championship victory, Robertson, Nutting, Vallala, Cryderman, Mackie, Burtis and Mike Mazzitelli collected two hits apiece.