11-U Tornados rally to claim title in the valley

Team overcomes late deficit for championship


By Dylan Reubenking


All hope appeared lost for the Nisqually Basin Youth Baseball 11-U Tornados in the Rally in the Valley tournament championship game in Puyallup against Badgers Baseball 10-U on Sunday, June 23.

The Tornados were down to their final out and trailing 9-8 in the sixth inning before scoring six unanswered runs to win the tournament. After a groundout and a popout, Wesley Garner drew a walk before Cason McKee singled to advance him to second. Blake Osborn came up clutch with a go-ahead, two-run double to center field to make it 10-9. Hudson Brown walked on four pitches, and Jackson Didway’s single scored two more after an error. Maddox Fossum drove in one more with a single, and he scored on a triple by Casen Miller.

The Badgers put one run on the board in the bottom of the sixth before a clutch double play and a strikeout ended the game, securing a 14-10 win for the Tornados.

It was a weekend filled with good fortune, as the Tornados had to win their semifinal game against the Puyallup Cal Ripken (PCR) 11-U All Stars by at least 12 runs on Sunday to even qualify for the title game that evening. They won, 15-1, to punch their ticket, using a five-run fifth inning and dominant pitching to seal the deal. Overall, the team won four of five games in the inaugural Rally in the Valley tournament.

Head coach Ben Emmons said, in his nearly 30 years of coaching, that the championship game victory was the most complete team effort he had ever seen. The Tornados collected eight hits by eight different batters and endured six lead changes to come out on top.

“Everybody did something special at some point in the game. I just haven’t seen it where every kid did something special,” Emmons said. “Usually, it’s like one or two players that just dominate. When we needed it, they just came through.”

The team’s mantra has been from Bible verse 2 Chronicles 15:7: “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” Emmons said the team embodied the saying throughout the championship game that was filled with twists and turns.

“There was not one point in the game where they ever gave up. In that sixth inning, I think they had more hope than I did. They just never, ever stopped. They got loud. They were encouraging one another, and I think that’s really what makes this team special,” he said. “They just don’t quit.”

Kadin Emmons, Ben’s son, agreed that the team’s attitude was a big reason why they emerged victorious on Sunday.

“Once they got the spark, we started going crazy. We got really hyped,” he said.

McKee credited the team’s coaches for preparing them for such a moment and for keeping their composure in the midst of a championship game.

“You have to be very prepared. The coaches are amazing. They put us through hard work. They’ve done a lot for us, and we’re happy to be here,” he said.

Didway, whose two-run single served as a dagger of sorts in the sixth inning, said he was aiming just to get on base to keep the wheels churning, but he was proud to put two more runs on the scoreboard. He added that it was meaningful to win a title with his teammates.

“We all know each other and have played on a team together before. When we’re all on one team, we just mesh together, and that’s when this team is really great,” Didway said.

The team celebrated on the field with hugs, high fives, as well as dog tags and necklaces. It made a celebratory trip to Baskin Robbins to close out a miraculous day of baseball.

“I just felt so good for them. This was just our second tournament, so we were kind of underdogs going in there. They have heart,” Ben Emmons said. “They celebrated at home plate, and then you’ve gotta get ice cream, right? You win a big tournament, you’ve gotta get ice cream.”

The Tornados will compete in the state tournament against the Kennewick Nationals 11-U All-Stars at 1 p.m., Thursday, July 4, at the Regional Athletic Complex in Olympia.