Blessed with a powerful lineup and solid defense, Auburn’s boys of summer are at it again.
The Little League All-Star Majors’ 11 and 12 year olds completed an unbeaten run through the District 10 tournament with a 10-6 title-clinching win over Federal Way National at Sunset Park on Friday evening.
Auburn opens the double-elimination state playoffs at the Federal Way National League Complex next Saturday.
JJ Goodfellow launched a grand slam home run to break open the game in the fifth inning and added a pair of doubles in the win. He also pitched 4⅓ innings before Austin Ellsworth and a few stout gloves behind him closed the door in relief.
Goodfellow’s twin brother, Amari, homered, as did Jay Mentink, who drilled a 225-foot, three-run shot over the right-field fence in the third inning.
Mentink, Ellsworth and Buddy Olson doubled. Doug Wood and Brendan Stein added RBIs.
“It’s great. It’s awesome. It’s hard work paying off,” said manager Kai Nahaku, who won his third district championship with Auburn’s Majors program. “We’re powerful, all up and down (the lineup). … We’ve come a long way in a month. Federal Way is a tough team. They’re two-time district champions.”
Kayla Johnson blasted a two-run home run in the first inning and drove in two more runs in the fifth to lead Federal Way National. Aidan Graham connected for a solo shot in the sixth.
Auburn is peaking at the right hour, Nahaku said, as it continues to ride the emotional wave, the memory of Seth Wood, an Auburn Mountainview sophomore player who died of brain cancer in April. The Auburn team, as Nahaku explained, is driven by Wood’s words, “Give it all you got,” and the dugout is often filled with chants of “S-wood,” his nickname.
“These guys have bought into that whole philosophy,” Nahaku said of playing hard in honor of Wood.
“You wouldn’t recognize the team four weeks ago … not the way we played today,” he said. “Who’s going to hit it out? Who’s going to hit a double? You just don’t know. Honestly, I would hate to coach against us. We’re a very athletic group. We can hit the ball hard in the gaps. We can hit it over the fence. We hit good pitching. We hit off-speed pitching.
“… These guys really bought into philosophies … and they have worked their butts off, plain and simple.”
Now it’s off to state, a challenge Nahaku is familiar with. His 2015 team finished third there, five years after a magical run led to a regional crown and Auburn’s first and only appearance in the coveted Little League World Series at South Williamsport, Pa. The 2010 All-Stars won three of five games, including three consecutive elimination contests. Auburn, one of eight regional champions representing the U.S., came within three outs of reaching the American final.
“Unbelievable experience,” Nahaku said.
As for how far his current lineup can go? Nahaku offered, “One game at a time. You never know.”