Mt. Spokane’s two Greater Spokane League baseball games against Mead this week were Exhibit A of the Wildcats Jekyll and Hyde offensive personality.
But their pitching staff, which has allowed but 17 runs in 12 games made sure the end result was the same.
Thursday at Mt. Spokane, the Wildcats (11-1) snuck past the Panthers (7-3) in a 2-1 nail-biter to complete the season sweep and – coupled with other events of the day – improve their GSL lead to two games.
The second meeting between district rivals was considerably different from Tuesday’s 10-1 Mt. Spokane triumph, even if the pitching effort was the same.
The Wildcats hit the ball hard in that one, gaining confidence from a 3-0 first inning and finishing with 14 hits.
“Anytime you get a three-run cushion it just catapults you,” said coach Alex Schuerman. “Like anything in athletics, it’s momentum. We got a bad-hop single, a booming double and got greedy after that.”
But in Thursday’s matchup of each team’s putative pitching ace, Paul Smith of Mt. Spokane and Matt Walsh of Mead, hits were hard to come by and the outcome came down to defense and breaks.
Except for Mark Purser’s first-inning single, most of the game’s hits either came off infield squibbers or got through the defense.
“That’s what happens with two good pitchers on the mound,” said Schuerman.
Smith only allowed two hits in six innings. The Panthers’ lone run scored on Connor Moore’s fielder’s choice in the top of the sixth with his team trailing 2-0.
The Wildcats had scored first off Walsh in the fourth on a pop double by Bryan Raynor that found open ground near the third-base line and fell just in front of diving left fielder Brett Flora.
“I don’t know what to say about that,” said Mt. Spokane’s standout second baseman. “I was out front a little bit. It was lucky.”
The hit scored Jeremy Carey, whose sacrifice bunt attempt turned into the first of two force outs at third base after Mt. Spokane opened the inning with two base hits, including the first of two by Niko Sotolongo.
The winning run came an inning later when Andy Pittz, who had walked, scurried home on a throwing error during Mead’s aborted double-play attempt that would have closed the door on the inning.
That proved to be enough, even if the nature of the game kept both coaches in suspense.
“Today it was like butterfly stomach the whole way through,” said Schuerman. “Walsh is a bulldog and Paul is a classic power pitcher who sometimes finds a way to get into jams and finds a way to get out of them.”
Although he threw nearly 100 pitches, Smith earned his fourth win without a loss. But it took some defensive help behind him to do so.
In the third inning, Mead put its first two batters on, Glen Reser with the Panthers’ first hit. But a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play blunted that threat. The following inning Raynor was in the middle of a well-turned double play.
“I can’t explain how much we’re going to miss him,” said Schuerman. “I think he’s the best second baseman in the league. He does nothing flashy, but makes every play.”
Mt. Spokane, which is off for a week, holds a two-game lead over both the Panthers and University, which lost to Gonzaga Prep. Among its remaining eight games are two each against the Titans and fourth-place Ferris.
“We’re where we want to be for sure,” said Schuerman. “We’d love to finish 19-1 but it’s going to be a battle every night out.”
Having a stingy pitching staff is a good place to start.
•At University (7-3), the visiting G-Prep Bullpups (4-8) gained a split of their series with a 4-2 triumph, thanks to a two-run fourth inning. Winning pitcher C.J. Perry was 2 for 2 with a double and drove in two runs. Billy Karwacki had three hits, also doubling, and picked up a save. U-Hi catcher Aaron LaPlante hit his second home run of the season. … North Central (6-6) evened its record by sweeping host Ferris (6-4) 8-3. Scott Simchuk was 4 for 4, all of them doubles, driving in three runs with one of them during the Indians’ five-run second inning. Saxon Beau Brett hit his league-leading fifth home run in the fourth. … Despite managing just two hits off Rogers’ Jacob Partridge, Central Valley (6-6) completed its season sweep of the visiting Pirates (4-6), winning 4-2. The Bears scored three times in the bottom of the sixth, Ryan Simmelink’s bunt base hit tying the game and a single by Alex Banderas scoring the game-winner. Partridge had pitched no-hit ball until then, nursing a lead after Rogers scored twice in the first inning. … Host Lewis and Clark (2-10) scored twice in each the sixth and seventh innings to rally past East Valley 6-5 and split their two-game series. Sage Poland scored three runs and drove in two with two hits, including a home run. Pete Arneson hit the game-winning single in the bottom of the inning. Ryan Campbell was 3 for 3 and scored three times for the Knights (3-7).