SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- Big Sky Little League’s season ended Saturday afternoon with a 13-1 loss to Washington in the Northwest Regional championship game, but the memories will last long in the minds of players, coaches, and parents.
“If you walk off the field knowing you have done your best, that is something to take pride in,” said Big Sky coach Rob Schieno, who is a cousin of Gene Carlson, another coach who guided Montana to the Northwest Region Final and Little League World Series in 2011. “I don’t think anybody would have expected us to reach the final game after losing to Oregon eight to two.”
That Wednesday setback was turned around on Thursday when Big Sky pitcher Jack Leuthold turned in a solid mound performance to shut out Oregon Lake Oswego, 3-0, in the regional semifinals. Big Sky faced an Eastlake (Washington) team which put double-digit totals on the scoreboard in their first three games, including a 10-4 victory over Montana during pool play.
With Leuthold not eligible to pitch, Big Sky pitching had a difficult time. Four of the first five Eastlake batters walked, and Austin Oh tripled home three runs to give Eastlake a 5-0 lead before a batter was retired.
Eastlake added five runs in the third inning. Will Armbruester, who had three hits in as many at-bats, doubled home a run. Jacob Dahlstrom followed with a two-run homer, which cleared the outfield tents and traveled an estimated 275 feet.
Big Sky loaded the bases in the top of the second, but couldn’t bring home a run. In the third inning, Connor Polkowske led off with a single, advancing to second on an infield out. Nolan Askelson pushed Polkowske to third with an infield single, and Leuthold drove in the run on a fielder’s choice.
“The best team doesn’t always win,” said Schieno, pointing to Big Sky’s semifinal victory over Oregon. “The better team won today. They (Eastlake) will represent the Northwest Region well.”
Big Sky parents were naturally disappointed by the result, but still thought the week was a great experience.
“It was good to see the boys fight their way to the championship game,” said David Binstock, the father of first baseman Karsen Binstock. “They never gave up.”
Schiano was also proud of the resilience Big Sky displayed. They came back from the Oregon loss in pool play, scored two runs and had a sixth-inning rally in the first game against Eastlake, and kept trying to scratch out runs Saturday even though they had a disappointing first inning.
For Tami Evenson, the mother of pitcher-outfielder Max Evenson, being in California and watching her son play was satisfying.
“I’m proud of how far they went, and I’m proud of each and every one of them,” she said. “They are a great group of boys, and it was great watching the boys have fun.”