The Sandy Pack 14U team will represent the Pacific Northwest at the Babe Ruth World Series scheduled Aug. 14-21 in Ottumwa, Iowa.
The team punched its ticket to the series after defeating the competition at the regional championship held in North Bend.
The boys from Sandy have been biting at the heels of the regional title for years, but each time fell short of the coveted prize.
After rising to state champions in 2017, 2018 and 2019, all eyes were on the 2021 season.
Things looked shaky for the kids in red and black at the regional tournament. Down 1-2 early on, the Sandy Pack barely advanced to the elimination games.
"There was never a feeling in the group that we were down," outfielder Nate Reel said. "We all knew we could do it, it was just a thing of going out there and getting it done."
And get it done they did.
Once in the elimination bracket, the Pack wasted no time taking down the host team from Oregon s South Coast. Then, Sandy faced the team from Puyallup, Washington, which had beaten them just a day prior. The boys were unfazed and took the game 6-2.
The tournament ended with the Sandy Pack holding on to beat Brewster Farmers of northern Washington 5-2, finally getting over the hump and winning the 2021 Babe Ruth 14-Year-Old Pacific Northwest Regional Championship.
The championship title meant a lot to the scrappy team from Sandy. Most members of the team have been playing together since they were 7 years old.
"We are unique because we are all from either Sandy or Boring," said Head Coach Mike Kosderka. "You have these other teams that are pulling from six to 11 different schools.
Though each player is talented, team mom Melony Winchester said it s the bond shared between the boys that has contributed most to their success.
"There is something to say about their chemistry," Winchester said. "It is almost like they know what their other teammate is going to do next."
Reel believes that knowing each other for more than half their lives gives the team from Sandy an advantage that other teams don't have.
"We don't just spend the weekends together like other teams," Reel said. "We are all best friends and are just really close."
The team's friendship isn't hard to see when they are out practicing at Sandy High School. Side conversations between drills went from dreading summer assignments, to tips to maneuver high school and the near constant ribbing of each other's abilities.
"I only hit dingers," second baseman Kobe Sparks said, as he swung at a ball mounted on a baseball tee. His comment was quickly refuted by all his teammates.
Although playful insults and jokes were hurled at every opportunity, the boys never lost focus on the task at hand.
"I think we find this balance," Reel said. "I think we are almost always joking, but we get serious when we have to."
The Sandy team's work ethic has been on display from their first practice. The group started practicing Jan. 1, about two months before their first game.
"These guys are great. I mean, it's 15 minutes before practice and they're already out here batting," said Kosderka.
As the days get closer to when the team will leave for Iowa, the excitement grows and the intensity of practice escalates.
"You can have fun and practice these fundamentals," Kosderka reminded the team, as they simulated tagging out a runner sprinting for home.
Many of the boys also play other sports, but this is their favorite team, said Jessica Hibbs, mom of center fielder Cooper Hibbs.
The same is true for Reel, who is a multi-sport athlete.
"Baseball is the most important (sport) to me, and this is by far the most competitive team I have been a part of," Reel said. "Nothing really compares."
Players and their families plan to be in Iowa by the weekend, some even driving all the way to the tournament.
The Sandy Pack will play their first game against Tallahassee, Florida, on Sunday, Aug. 15. The team will stay for the duration of the tournament regardless of how they finish during the competition.
Community members can help Sandy Pack team members and their families make it to the Babe Ruth World Series by making a donation on their GoFundMe to help defray costs of travel and lodging
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