The Ridgefield Little League Intermediate baseball team went 1-2 at the state tournament after an undefeated district championship and regular season.
The team, made up of 13-year-olds, traveled to Des Moines, Wash., on July 11 and 12 for the state tournament. Eight other teams from around the state also competed for the title.
During the first game on July 11, Ridgefield lost to Pullman with a score of 11-7, then took the win for game two, beating Seattle Central 17 to 3. Manager Josh Thompson said the team batted well, pitched great and maintained solid defense.
In the final game, Ridgefield was eliminated by North Kitsap with a score of 10-1.
For the district tournament, Ridgefield beat both Highlands and Salmon Creek teams, then Salmon Creek again during the championships with a score of 19-0.
Josh’s wife, Megan, organized a GoFundMe page to help families pay for food, lodging, travel expenses and fees at the state tournament. Community members donated $2,730 to the effort.
Thompson said the turnaround between the district and state tournaments was a lot quicker than in previous years, where they’d usually get about three to four weeks to prepare.
“It’s tough for a lot of families to take off work, cover hotel stays and food,” he said. “The GoFundMe page and the support from the community was absolutely fantastic. It allows all these families to go watch their sons play without worrying as much about additional costs.”
Thompson, with coaches Devin Cast, Nathan Kaiser and Mychal Dynes, volunteer without pay, he said.
The teams for district six include Ridgefield, Salmon Creek, Battle Ground, Kalama, Highlands and Glenwood, Thompson wrote in an email.
Ridgefield also played teams from district four, including Camas, Fort Vancouver and Columbia River.
The intermediate team lost the opportunity to play in the age 12 bracket last year because of the pandemic. Thompson describes that team as the “pinochle of Little League.”
The 12-year-old team’s world series is televised across the nation, as are other Little League games, but they don’t have the same “wow factor,” Thompson said.
“Ultimately, kids are resilient,” he said. “They just want to be out there playing.”
Before the season started, the team set four goals and accomplished three of them. Number one, they wanted to be competitive with some of the local tournament teams. Little League only allows local residents to participate, while tournament teams pull players from all over. Ridgefield beat two of the tournament teams during the season.
As for the second goal, the team wanted to remain undefeated for the regular season. Number three, Ridgefield wanted to win the district tournament, Thompson said. Lastly, they wanted to take home the state title, which they came short of this year.
Every practice, Thompson asks each player, “what is one thing you’ve done for somebody today that you weren’t paid for or received any return for?”
“I’ve tried to build a mentality that’s bigger than baseball with these kids,” he said.
Thompson began coaching the team about four years ago, and many of the same players continued with the program, he said.
Practices for Ridgefield will pick back up in the early fall in preparation for another season.
“For me, baseball has been what I’ve loved my entire life,” Thompson said. “It’s always given me an opportunity to be successful and grow as a human. I want to give back to the kids. I think everybody should have the opportunity to play baseball, regardless of who you are.”