The perfect scenario these next three weeks for the Kennewick Outlaws AAA American Legion baseball team would involve dirty laundry.
As in, they may not have enough room in their suitcases to pack everything to wear.
The Outlaws – 39-12 this season – won the Washington State AAA state tournament last week in Bellingham.
That qualified Kennewick for the Pacific Northwest regional tournament, which begins Wednesday in Lewiston, Idaho.
If the Outlaws were to come out of Lewiston winning the regional championship this coming Sunday, they’d qualify for the American Legion World Series, set for Aug. 15-20 in Shelby, N.C.
“American Legion baseball has told everyone that whoever wins the tournament in Lewiston would have to be on an airplane the very next day to get to the series in time,” said Outlaws manager Jake Millbauer. “And we have to do it at the closest large airport we can.”
That’s likely Spokane.
But that’s a down-the-road problem. First things first.
The Outlaws have to concentrate on the task at hand: beating the other seven teams in the Lewiston tournament.
And the confidence to do so is there.
“I’m not surprised we’re here,” said Millbauer. “I believed at the start of the season we’d end up at the World Series.”
It took his players a little more time.
The bulk of this squad is from Kennewick High School, where the Lions ended up with eight players named to the Mid-Columbia Conference’s first, second or honorable mention list following the spring school season.
That’s pretty good.
But here’s the problem: The Lions are a Class 3A team, and Kamiakin and Southridge (also Class 3A teams) advanced into postseason ahead of Kennewick High for the only two 3A playoff berths.
An 11-5 record (14-10 overall) was good for third place in the MCC. Just not good enough for regionals.
“The school season was definitely disappointing,” said Outlaws slugger Tim Gee, who is headed to Walla Walla CC in the fall. “After school ball we knew we’d do better. I’m not surprised at all we’re here. We’re a confident group of guys.”
Millbauer felt the pride factor kicked in on this group.
“I think (the school ball disappointment) was more the turning point,” said Millbauer. “On that school ball team, there was a lot of talent. But they didn’t work as hard for it. This summer, they realized they had to work for it.”
It still took a few games.
The Outlaws opened the season with a 4-4 record.
Millbauer had a heart-to-heart talk with the players, talking about being one unit, working on fundamentals – all of that stuff.
It eventually worked.
After the 4-4 start, Kennewick has been 35-8.
“Being a close team is a big strength for us,” said third baseman Talon LaFontaine, also heading to Walla Walla CC this fall. “I like that. We play together, we’re able to have energy to pull the same way for each other.”
“I like, first, the energy we have in the dugout,” Gee said. “It’s the most energized dugout I’ve even been in. There are no cliques. We’re all one unit. Everyone is cheering on who is at bat. Everybody is supporting the one guy that’s in that moment.”
But what about the on-the-field stuff? What would an opposing team’s scouting report focus on?
“Pitching,” said LaFontaine.
Millbauer agrees. Pitching has gotten this team very far.
“We’ve got great pitching, and great depth in pitching,” said Millbauer. “I struggle for picking a starter. They are all legit.”
The Outlaws can go six or seven starters deep, says Gee, and the rest of the team feels confident it can get enough runs for the victory.
“Our strength is we have depth at pitching, with a combination of our hitting,” said Gee. “With this team, we’re able to consistently put up enough runs for our pitchers.”
“We’ve also got great hitters, situational hitters,” said Millbauer. “These guys know how to hit behind guys.”
Ironically, it’s catcher Jackson Lind – who just finished his sophomore year at Kennewick High – who believes it’s offense that moves this team.
But it’s also Lind who is given the task of calling pitches for all of his pitchers. And he’s done a great job of it so far.
“I go through the lineup with a fastball-first pitch,” said Lind. “If I see a guy swinging early, cheating, I’ll come back with an off speed pitch the first pitch in his next at-bat. We sit down before the game and go over the other team’s lineup. And I’m talking to them all during the game.”
What the Kennewick Outlaws program has done in such a short time is impressive.
The team was started in 2015 by Nate Holdren. In 2016, Holdren led the team to the American Legion World Series.
After that, Holdren left to start his own program. In 2017, there wasn’t enough interest to have a team.
But for the last two seasons, it’s been Millbauer managing this squad – which won the Central Washington League title this season as well as the state championship.
And his confidence exudes over this squad. The players have noticed and followed suit.
“We’re really confident,” said LaFontaine. “But we take it each game at a time. We build off of (Millbauer’s) energy.”
So dirty laundry would just be a minor annoyance for these guys.
• Here’s the tournament schedule for Wednesday’s openers;
Game 1, Juneau Midnight Suns (Alaska state champion) vs. Medford Mustangs (Oregon state champion), 10 a.m.
Game 2, Bozeman Bucks (Montana state champion) vs. Lakeside Recovery (Washington runnerup), 1 p.m.
Game 3, Casper Oilers (Wyoming state champion) vs. Idaho Falls Bandits (Idaho state champion), 4:30 p.m.
Game 4, Kennewick Outlaws (Washington state champion) vs. Lewis-Clark Twins (Tournament host), 7:30 p.m.
The tournament format is double elimination.
• The Kennewick Outlaws roster is comprised of Paige Aldrich, Jacob Andersen, Eden Blanco, Rustin Edmiston, Tim Gee, Skylar Higley, Simeon Howard, Cody LaFontaine, Talon LaFontaine, Jackson Lind, Mason Machart, Gaven Mattson, Trevor Ridley, Jacob Schuldheisz, Cooper Shelby, Easton Stevens and Kaleb Stevenson.
U.S. Women’s Amateur
Southridge High graduate Therese Warner fired a 2-over-par 74 in the second and final round of stroke play on Tuesday at the U.S. Women’s Amateur golf tournament at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Miss.
That put Warner in a tie for 21st at 144, even par. It also qualifies her for the Round of 64 match play, which is what she said was her goal for Tuesday.
Her Tuesday round included four birdies and nine pars to go against four bogeys and a double bogey on No. 8.
Walla Walla’s Emily Baumgart shot a 76 on Tuesday for a two-day total of 150. She finished tied for 84th out of 156 golfers. However, she missed the cut.
Jeff Morrow is the former sports editor for the Herald.