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Tri-Cities kids fighting for national baseball titles in the Alabama, California heat

The Kennewick Americans youth baseball team is playing in Alabama in the Cal Ripken World Series for 10-year-olds.
The Kennewick Americans youth baseball team is playing in Alabama in the Cal Ripken World Series for 10-year-olds.

If you Google the current time for Phenix City, Ala., it says it’s two hours ahead of the Tri-Cities.

That’s a lie. It’s actually in the Eastern Time Zone.

That doesn’t help when you’re trying to track down Kennewick American 10U all-stars coach Andy Wade on a Tuesday night, thinking it’s 9:15 p.m. in Alabama when it’s really 10:15.

Instead, you wake him up after a furious 24 hours of traveling.

“Babe Ruth Baseball didn’t do us any favors with the travel schedule,” said Wade on Wednesday. “We left the Tri-Cities at 8:30 a.m. (Monday) and drove down to Portland. Waited seven hours for our flight. Flew to LAX. Then flew across the country to Atlanta. Got there at 5:30 a.m., and drove to Phenix City. By the time we arrived, these boys were asleep within 10 minutes.”

But after a good night’s rest, the Kennewick Americans are ready to play in the Cal Ripken World Series for 10-year-olds.

They had a full practice on Wednesday afternoon in the Alabama heat.

“The humidity could be an obstacle,” said Wade. “But it’s not bad. It’s different than home.”

Fortunately, the Kennewick Americans will have three pool-play games to get used to it and get rid of the tournament jitters.

After those games, every single one of the 16 teams involved will be seeded into bracket play.

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“It’s a great format, with having such small (four-team) pools,” said Wade. “Last year, the guys had five pool games. This format is a lot easier for coaching preparation.”

And knowing who to pitch. Teams that do well in this type of tournament use a lot of pitchers.

“The fact is, I have 10 kids on the roster who have thrown,” said Wade. “And eight of those I can definitely count on.”

That and how the kids play together.

“Our biggest strength is our teamwork,” said Wade. “Having 12 kids at the start of the season, coming together as a team, has been great.”

As a unit, the team is 28-0 — including all-star tournaments and invitational tournaments.

And it all begins Thursday.

Here is Kennewick’s pool-play schedule (all first pitches for them at 9:30 a.m. PDT): vs. Southwest champion, Thursday; vs. California champion, Friday; vs. Connecticut champion, Saturday.

Games will be live streamed at https://phenixcityworldseries.com/live-stream/

KA players are Samuel Crowther, Teryn Curtis, Dallas Doherty, Sebastian Iniguez, Rece McClure, Bradley Parker, Caden Pratt, Gavin Steinshouer, Troy Taylor, Nicholas Wade, Ryan Wade and Bren Woods.

The team is still trying to raise money to cover the cost of the trip.

People interested in helping can go to the Kennewick American All-Stars 10U 2019 Facebook page, or donate to: Kennewick American Youth Baseball, c/o Andy Wade or Joe Crowther (Treasurer), P.O. Box 7102, Kennewick, WA 99336.

Kennewick National 12s

In 1994, Andy Mengelos’ father, Jim, coached a Kennewick National team (with Andy’s little brothers on the squad) to a World Series title.

Now, 25 years later, Andy Mengelos hopes to pull off the same feat as his father.

After driving to Seattle for an overnight stay Tuesday night, the Kennewick National 12U 60s arrived in Visalia, Calif., on Wednesday to prep for their Cal Ripken World Series.

Mengelos loves this squad.

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“I love their resiliency,” Megelos said during a break in tournament orientation Wednesday. “These boys have faced adversity and come through every time. They are gritty. They are hard workers. And they understand clean baseball.”

Mengelos says this team’s biggest strength, on the field, is its defense. That might come in handy if you don’t give up some extra outs.

Kennewick National’s pool-play schedule: vs. Hanford, Calif., 2:30 p.m. Friday; vs. Visalia Blue, 7:30 p.m., Saturday; vs. Dilford-Glyndon-Felton, Minn., 5 p.m., Sunday; vs. Arkadelphia, Ark., 2:30 p.m., Monday, Aug. 5; vs. Fresno/Bullard, Calif., 5 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 6.

This is where, Kennewick National’s pitching staff will be key.

“We love this tournament format,” Mengelos said. “It lets us be strategic with our pitching rotation. And we have six guys who are basically No. 1 starters.”

In addition, Mengelos said he could use another six or seven different guys to pitch in relief.

The Kennewick National roster consists of Eliyjah Acevedo, James Carvo, Caden Castro, Caleb Coduti, Sawyer Donaldson, Zachary Kendall, Aidan Larson, Jon Lemire, Roman Maki, Austin Mengelos, Zachariah Swanson and Bronx Webb.

Like Kennewick American, the team has been raising money for their trip.

Kennewick National also has a GoFundMe page that people can donate to.

Visalia also will have a tournament live feed. But it won’t be released until later Thursday.

American Legion update

• The Kennewick Outlaws finally dropped a AAA state tournament game on Tuesday night, losing 1-0 to host Bellingham.

However, because the Outlaws were the last team to lose a game in their half of the tournament, they will play in the championship late Wednesday night.

Bellingham and the Vancouver Cardinals will play at 4 p.m. (Loser out), and the winner takes on Kennewick for the title.

Now, this is only one half of the AAA state tournament. The winner of the Kennewick game will play the winner of the other half of the tournament Thursday night for the state title.

However, both teams will qualify for the Pacific Northwest Regionals next week in Lewiston, Idaho.

• The Kennewick Phantoms are still unbeaten in the AA state tournament in Yakima, edging Mount Vernon 6-5 on Tuesday night.

Trevor Ridley was 3-for-4 with two doubles for the Phantoms, while Elijah Tanner and Bodie Mamiya each added two hits. Garret Noethe had a triple and scored two runs.

The Phantoms were to play the Yakima Valley Peppers at 4 p.m., Wednesday in their half-tournament final. The Peppers need to win twice, while the Phantoms need just one win.

The winner will then face the champion of the other half bracket.

That’ll be between the Hanford Jr. Flames and West Valley. Hanford eliminated the Yakima Jr. Beetles 11-2 on Tuesday night.

The Flames must beat West Valley twice in order to advance.

• Over at Hanford High School at the A state tournament, the host Hanford A Flames were set to play unbeaten West Kootenay for the title at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Hanford must win twice to take the state title, while West Kootenay needs just one win.

The A Flames eliminated the West Valley Bees 13-7 on Tuesday to advance.