Mitch Barker missed Royal City’s first date at state.
So when the Royal Knights pitcher got on the soggy mound at Seafirst Stadium on Saturday night he wasn’t coming off without a state title, not after having to watch his football teammates blast Toledo 70-0 in the state football finals without him.
Barker - a running back who was injured early in the football playoffs last fall - was the picture of health in the Knights’ baseball championship game, going the distance in a 3-hour, rain-delayed 12-2 rout of the weary Lakewood Cougars.
The Cougs fired their best shot earlier in the day, beating Columbia (White Salmon) 5-4 in nine innings in a Saturday morning semifinal that had been washed out the previous day.
Lakewood came out as sloppy as the weather in the nightcap, booting seven balls in a shower-spattered championship game.
Pressure had something to do with the destruction. Royal applied it at the plate and on the basepaths.
And as if they needed fielding gems, Royal shortstop Jed Wardenaar robbed Lakewood’s Jeremy Miller of a hit in the fifth, going deep into the hole to backhand the ball and make the long throw just off the outfield grass for the out.
Barker got all the run support he needed from designated hitter Hollis Hebdon, who had a two-run double in the third and a three-run homer that cleared the left-field fence in the fourth.
Hebdon had five RBIs before coach Jim Klampher lifted him in the fifth.
Nobody, least of all Lakewood coach Larry Delaney, was accusing Klampher of running up the score.
“Royal has a great club,” Delaney said. “They just mash the ball. I’m proud of our guys for what they accomplished. We knocked off Rochester along the way when Rochester was ranked No. 1. After seeing Royal, I have to say they’re definitely the best team in the state.”
In scattering five hits over seven long innings, Barker’s most consistent obstacle was the slippery mound.
“That clay gets really slick in the rain, but I credit the grounds crew for keeping the Turf-Dry on,” he said. “They did a great job all week. The main problem was footing. You had to concentrate on that.
“I’m not really a pitcher anyway, I’m a thrower. It feels great. Not too many schools win state titles in football and baseball in the same year.”
Klampher was honest in his postgame appraisal.
“We were pretty awesome,” he said. “We hit the ball well and played some great defense at shortstop and in the outfield. I’m still shaking my head over the play Wardenaar made.
“Mitch Barker threw really well,” the coach added. “My hat’s off to him. He hit his spots and had his curveball working on a tough night to pitch.”