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Softball team wins tournament, advances to national competition
The Northwest Islanders, Vashon’s men’s slowpitch softball team, recently won the Sun Classic tournament in Yakima, advancing the team to the world champtionships in Texas this September, where they will go up against slowpitch teams from across the country.
In the final games of the tournament, which took place July 22 and 23, the Northwest Islanders, sponsored by Sporty’s, played two championship games against The Cheese, a team from Rochester, Wash.
After losing to The Cheese, 7-2, in the first game, the Vashon players began to get nervous, said Shane Willits, one of the team’s players and coaches. “It was hectic,” he said.
But the Vashon men made a comeback in the second game, beating The Cheese 14-13 and winning the tournament.
The Northwest Islanders, Willits said, have been together for years on Vashon, but seemed to be reinvigorated this year with a new mix of players. This season 13 Vashon men play for the team, all of whom graduated over the past few decades from Vashon High School.
“There’s a good mix of guys,” Willits said.
The newcomers to the team include Willits himself, who grew up on Vashon and played professional softball in California for a number of years. He recently returned to the Island and now pitches for the Northwest Islanders and helps coach along with Jim Palmer and Max Chwaszczewski.
“This is the best team they’ve had in years,” Willits said. “Every one of us are are good athletes, and we have good camaraderie. It’s that hometown Vashon feel.”
The players estimate it will cost about $10,000 to participate in the world championships in September. Willits said they are currently looking for sponsors and planning fundraisers, which will likely include a car wash and hot dog sale, a benefit concert at Sporty’s and an event at Core Centric.
Willits said it might not be easy to raise the large amount of money, but he has faith the team can make it.
“It might be slow going, but I think it will happen,” Willits said. “People are supportive of each other on this island.”
To help send the Northwest Islanders to the world slowpitch softball championships, donate to their account at US Bank or contact Shane Willits at 463-2114 or Jim Palmer at 948-2395.