STANWOOD — Forced to play in a 17U AA league even though their players were all 16 and under, the Crosscutters still managed to win a few games.
Some of the games were rough, too. But all of those tough games against exclusively older kids could be paying off as the Crosscutters qualified for the American Legion state A tournament with a doubleheader sweep over Stanwood this weekend.
The Crosscutters have players in the seventh and eighth grades going up against 17-year-old players at the AA level. Technically, they hadn’t played any A level games until this weekend because there is only one other A level team in Western Washington. Most kids at this level in Western Washington play on travel teams rather than American Legion, said coach John Qualls.
“It’s been a challenge, it really prepared us,” Qualls said. “We’ve always believed in playing up.”
Qualls said playing the tougher competition has made the Crosscutters stronger in the mental aspects of baseball.
In the Stanwood sweep Saturday, the Crosscutters beat the Cannons 8-3 and 14-1.
In Game One, the Cutters were led by solid pitching by John Vaara and Logan Powers, who combined for 10 strikeouts while scattering just five hits.
The Cutters’ offense was generated by “small ball” — singles, bunts, hit-and-runs and stolen bases. Meanwhile, the Cutters executed nearly flawless defense, highlighted by two outstanding plays by shortstop Dalton Kilmer and Hunter Robinson’s steady behind-the-plate catching, according to Qualls.
The Crosscutters won the second game 14-1. Qualls said that pitchers Tanner Woodley, Nathan Seelye, Elijah Flodstrom and Elisha DeJue throttled the Cannons’ artillery with excellent work across the pitching spectrum: velocity, location, and selection of pitches.
Qualls said that Woodley, Seeley, Parker Nickerson, Kole Acker, Colton Reed and Zane Glassock led the offensive explosion with “extra-base hits, timely hitting with runners in scoring position and aggressive base running.”
The Crosscutters will be a No 1 seed and will begin state play at 7 p.m. Saturday at Hanford High School in Richland. Qualls said A level American Legion is pretty big in eastern Washington and lot of strong teams east of the Cascades will be at the tournament.
The Crosscutters, Wilder Jr. and Wilder Sr. will be playing in the American Legion A, AA and AAA tournaments this weekend, respectively.
To watch the games online, visit www.wastatealb.org.