Lakeside takes second at regional finals

August 18, 2009

By Bob Taylor

Lakeside Recovery Senior American Legion team head coach Rob Reese maintains that every baseball season and every team has been special during his longtime career.However, Reese won’t easily forget the 2009 season and team. The 23rd season for Reese was definitely a special season with a special team.

The season came to an end Aug. 10, when Lakeside Recovery fell to the host Medford, Ore., Mustangs, 14-0 in the title game of the AAA Pacific Northwest Regional. Medford advanced to the American Legion World Series Aug. 14 in Fargo, N.D.

Lakeside Recovery ended the season with a 36-14-1 record. Although the team would have preferred going to the World Series, taking second to Medford was nothing to be ashamed of, considering the talented Mustangs, loaded with community college players, were the pre-tournament favorite.

“They were an older team. They were a very strong team,” Reese said. “This was the perfect year for them to host the regional.”

Medford had defeated Lakeside Recovery 31-22 in a tournament earlier in the summer. While the Mustangs were known for their offense, it was the pitching staff that dominated opponents at the regional. Medford pitchers allowed just one run per game.

The fact Lakeside Recovery reached the title round was somewhat surprising, especially after the team lost to Charter Cove, Calif., 7-6 Aug. 6 in the opening round.

“We had them for 7.2 innings, and then let them beat us in the ninth,” Reese said.

But Lakeside Recovery bounced back to beat Lewiston, Idaho (12-11); Anchorage, Alaska (12-2); and Billings, Mont., (4-2).

“Our players weren’t ready to go home after losing to California,” Reese said. “I’m proud of the way they came back. Every one of the teams they beat was a state champion.”

Lakeside Recovery went into the tournament as Washington state champions. The state title was Lakeside’s sixth. The team was not regarded as one of the favorites to win the state title this year. However, en route to the championship victory over Yakima Pepsi Pak (8-0), Lakeside defeated the highly touted Kennewick Bandits (16-0) and Twin City Titans (12-2).

At the regional tournament, though, Lakeside was short-handed, missing two of its top hitters — Spencer Rogers, of Issaquah High; and Trace Tam-Sing, of Newport.

Rogers, who ended the season with a team-leading .487 average, couldn’t play in the tournament because of a family reunion in Hawaii. Tam-Sing was unable to play in the tournament because he was entered in the Area Code Games, a tournament for some of the top high school players in the country.

“Not having those guys hurt, but we had a lot of guys who stepped up,” Reese said.

One of those who stepped up was Andrew West, who took over in center field for Rogers. West, a Newport graduate who will attend Columbia University in New York this fall, hit a team-leading .391 in the tournament.

Devin O’Donnell, of Issaquah, batted .333 and had a game-winning, two-run double when Lakeside defeated Billings; Sean Penberthy, of Skyline, hit .318; and Kyle Sutherland, an Issaquah High graduate who played at Edmonds Community College last spring, hit .300.

Missing key players wasn’t something new for Lakeside Recovery, which lost two of its top pitchers — Adrian Sampson and Blake Fulghum — the first month of the season. Yet, the team seemed to fill voids throughout the season.

At the regional, Lakeside received strong pitching from Jared Lemke, a Skyline grad bound for Central Washington University; Peyton Harrod, of Skyline; Jared Fisher, of Newport; Shane Yarnell, of Issaquah; and Cole Wiper, of Newport. Lemke had his strongest outing of the season against Anchorage, and Harrod, a relief pitcher for most of the season, responded with an incredible performance against Billings.

“We went into the season with a young pitching staff, and every one of those guys got better throughout the season. I’m really pleased with their development,” Reese said.

Overall, the team was one of the youngest for Reese in recent years.

“With a young team, you never know how it will do,” he said.

Mario Sanelli, an Issaquah High graduate who played at Columbia Basin College last spring, and Sutherland, both late additions to the team, were key players for Lakeside.

“They offered a lot of leadership. Mario hit well, stepped in and played shortstop at regionals for us,” Reese said. “Sutherland was outstanding behind the plate. No one ran on him.”

Reese said he hopes most of the younger players on the team will return next season. In addition, Lakeside’s junior programs could likely send up some promising players.

The Lakeside-Skyline Junior AA team and the Lakeside-Newport Junior AA team both played in the state tournament, and the Lakeside-Issaquah Junior AA team barely missed qualifying for state. The Lakeside 15-year-old Junior A team took second in its state tournament.

Lakeside Recovery’s dream is to return to the World Series, something it did in 1995, when the club took second.

“We really had a good year this summer,” Reese said. “We want to get back the World Series. But every year is different. Twin Cities had everyone back on its team and it didn’t win state. We’ll just have to see how it goes next year.”

Reach Sports Editor Bob Taylor at 392-6434, ext. 236, or bobtaylor@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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