SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — The tears seemed to try as best they could to flow from Robley Corsi Jr., but he managed to hold it together — mostly.
As a lifelong resident of the Lynnwood-Edmonds area, he understood the magnitude of the moment. His players may not have, but fortunately for them, they were far more adept at winning than analyzing emotions.
Ian Michael threw a complete game and Tyler Durbin went 3 for 3 as Pacific scored early and held on late to defeat Bend, Ore., 6-3, and win the Little League Northwest Regional championship Saturday at Al Houghton Stadium.
Pacific (15-2) moves to the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa., where it opens play against Jackie Robinson West of Chicago, the Great Lakes regional champion, at noon Seattle time Thursday.
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“I don’t think these guys realize what they’ve done,” Corsi said, “or what everyone back home is doing and saying and how excited they are. It’s huge. This hasn’t been done in 22 years in our area. This is a big moment, not only for us but for Pacific Little League, and also for Edmonds, Lynnwood and Lynndale Park.
“This is a big, big day.”
Pacific won six consecutive games in the Northwest Regional and defeated Bend for the second time on Saturday in a game that was far closer than the easy 10-2 rout Pacific won in the tournament opener.
Oregon got the tying run to the plate in each of the last two innings. In the bottom of the sixth, Michael struck out Bend’s No. 2 and No. 3 hitters — Dylan Ruhl and Evan Scaley, who were hitting a combined .441 — to end the game after Bend shut down a Washington threat in the top of the sixth by turning a double play on a line out at first base.
“That was a rally-killer,” Corsi said. “You go out at that point and momentum has shifted. And what you have to try to do at that point is hope that 12-year-old kids can stay poised and go at it. All we can do is be as positive as we can.”
His players responded all game, especially Michael.
The right-hander struck out nine while also working around nine hits he gave up. He and his defense stranded nine Bend base runners.
“Our coaches tell us to do this thing called visualizing,” he said. “We visualize what’s going to happen in the game. I think that really helps with nerves and helps keep (us) in the game (and) not worry about what can happen — just about winning the pitch.”
Pacific plated two runs in the top of the first, but Bend countered with three in the bottom of the frame. Michael, who admitted to some nerves early, didn’t allow a run the rest of the way.
Pacific also capitalized on Oregon mistakes. Pinch-hitter Tygan Duncan drove in the go-ahead run in the third inning when a grounder got past the Bend second baseman. He later scored on Karsen Tjarneberg’s RBI single.
“It’s tough when you outhit a good team,” said Bend manager Dan Ruhl, whose team had nine hits to Pacific’s seven, “and you can’t capitalize and put them together and score runs.”
For the second consecutive season, a Washington team — following Sammamish last year — will head to Williamsport later this week.
Asked during the postgame interview if Corsi, a manager who coaches with his heart on his sleeve, struggled to hold together his emotions at the end, he only smiled with eyes watering.
“About as hard as it is right now,” he said. “I’ll cry after this.”