Northwest Tallahassee Little League Team Battles Improbable Odds
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer
They were beaten by two-time defending champion Keystone by virtue of Little League baseball’s mercy rule in their opening game of the state championship tournament.
Their second game, which all but eliminated whatever outside chance they had of getting to the championship game, ended in a heart-breaking 8-7 loss to Viera Suntree.
Yet as they headed into their final game, as a group of 12-year-olds representing Tallahassee, not a single player on the Northwest all-star team had his head down.
They knew the task was improbable. Northwest had to finish as the best of the eight teams that came to Canopy Oaks Community Park if it wanted to get a shot at the Little League regional round, which sends the winner to the Little League World Series in Williamsport.
But instead, they sat in their dugout beaming with optimism as they prepared for their final of three-first round games.
“You played a fantastic game,” said Assistant Coach Aaron Gerteisen, following the team’s second loss. “I couldn’t be more proud of you.”
In fact, so was the large crowd of supporters who came to see if Tallahassee could advance its first team past the state competition into the Little League regional tournament. This was the fourth time that a local team made a bid in the state tournament.
This bunch played its second game as if it wanted to break the pattern. Twice Northwest loaded the bases, getting a run in the bottom of the fifth inning to cut even more into a Viera Suntree lead that was as big as 5-1 early on.
Northwest loaded the bases for a second time when Nate Sablan drew a walk with two outs. That sent their fans into a frenzy.
“One time, buddy,” a voice in the crowd pleaded amidst the ringing sound of cowbells and cheers.
But the two runs they needed to overcome wouldn’t come.
“They really battled and didn’t give up,” said Dana Letson, whose son, Harrison, is a Northwest pitcher. “They did a really good job and stayed in it until the end.
“Our players have a sense of brotherhood. They praise each other and they lift each other up. They tried to protect the home turf, but it has been a battle for them. It’s just tough, but it’s a game.”
The effort from the tenacious group of players who were selected a month ago from the four teams in the league was praised all afternoon, considering that they showed such fight after their first loss.
“We thought we could have won,” said outfielder Noah Jahn. “We definitely played a great game but unfortunately we couldn’t get in the runs. It felt great. The fans helped us out, getting that mentality that we could win and come back.”
Their dream of reaching Williamsport was shattered, but even with the improbable odds of a comeback, they never lost faith, said coach Willie Correa.
“At the end of the day, my goal was to get them to play together; believing in each other,” he said. “They showed it today. We believed.”