Baseball: Western Springs 11-year-olds win state title
Western Springs' Nolan Niego delivers a pitch to home plate, during the opening game of the 11-year-old all-star Little League state tournament against Olney. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 1, 2012 10:32PM
HINSDALE — When Western Springs 11-year-old all-star Owen Waunn stepped to the plate in the fifth inning of the state championship game Wednesday he recalled a recent conversation with his father.
“He told me to dream about getting the walk-off hit in the state finals,” Waunn said of his father and Western Springs manager Bob Waunn. “I just told myself I was going to do it.”
Owen Waunn’s premonition came true when he tripled home two runs to cap Western Springs’ 18-8 five-inning victory over Jackie Robinson West at a packed Peirce Park in Hinsdale.
The state crown was Western Springs’ first 11-year-old state crown since 2006.
Waunn also broke an 8-8 tie with an RBI single earlier in the fifth.
“It’s what every dad dreams of,” said Bob Waunn, who shared a hug with his son at home plate after the victory. “I’m so proud of him. He had a wonderful state tournament.”
Western Springs scored 10 runs in the final inning to wrap up a perfect postseason.
“This has been a magical run,” Bob Waunn said. “I’m just so proud of the boys. We had some timely hitting. You can’t win this tournament with three or four guys. It was all 12 guys. They all know their roles and do a wonderful job.”
Western Springs received contributions from Waunn (3-for-4), Nolan Niego (3-for-4, double, 3 RBI), Eric Steensma (2-for-3, 3 RBI), Dominic Fera (2 hits, home run), Graham Sands (2 hits, 2 RBI), Thomas Remijas (2-RBI single), Nick Panos (3 walks, RBI), Andrew Gatland (2 hits), Stone Saloum, Daniel Feldmeier, Jack Hammond and Sam Hojnar.
The victory wasn’t as easy as the final score would indicate.
Jackie Robinson, which won the 10-year-old state championship last season, scored three runs in the top of the first to take a 3-0 lead. Western Springs answered with two runs in the bottom of the first and scored six in the second to take an 8-3 advantage. No. 8 hitter Fera sparked the outburst with his first home run over the left-field fence.
Jackie Robinson then evened the score in the fourth with five runs to tie the game at 8-8 to set the stage for the exciting fifth inning.
Steensma entered the game in the top of the fifth inning with one out, runners on first and second and the score tied 8-8. He induced a lineout and pop-out to escape the jam and earn the victory after the exciting bottom of the fifth.
“I thought we could do this right at the beginning of the season,” said Remijas, who hit three home runs in the state tournament. “At the first practice I said I think we can really win state. It’s really cool.”