Last Tuesday, following Mt. Spokane’s 2-0 loss to Kamiakin in the first round of the 3A regional baseball playoffs, you couldn’t blame Wildcats coach Alex Schuerman for thinking, “here we go again.”
The Wildcats over the past four years have been among the Greater Spokane League’s best, reaching the postseason each year with two regular season titles and a division championship.
But in their first three district playoffs they’d gone 1-5 and here they were 0-1 and faced with winning three straight games if they were to qualify for their first state tournament.
Schuerman’s first words after Tuesday’s defeat were, “I’m so sick of this.”
But he concluded the interview by saying this year’s team was a resilient group.
“They’ll find a way,” he said.
Indeed they did. After a gut-wrenching 2-1 victory on Friday over West Valley (Yakima), the Wildcats turned the bats loose on state perennial Southridge, 16-3 and rallied from a 4-1 deficit to beat Kennewick. They play Saturday, 10 a.m. in the Region IV four-team quad of the 16-team tournament with a chance to reach the final four at Safeco Field, May 25 and 26.
“It was unbelievable,” said Schuerman. “The run of emotions – I’ve never been so excited or nervous at the same time.”
Schuerman said that there were years when he figured Mt. Spokane would qualify for state and didn’t and he would question himself.
“I thought we were snakebit,” he said. “What was I doing wrong?”
On Friday, Paul Smith threw great allowing just three hits, Schuerman said, but the WV-Yakima pitcher, a submariner, was baffling.
Although the Wildcats had eight hits, they couldn’t get a big one until Mark Purser hit a “moon shot rocket” home run, his ninth this year, in the fifth inning for what proved to be the winning run.
Against Southridge, a 10-run first-inning highlighted by Andy Pittz‘s bases loaded triple made things easy for pitcher Nic Fowler, Tuesday’s hard-luck loser. Jarek Cunningham drove in five runs with three hits, including a homer.
In the 7-4 state qualifying win over Kennewick, the Wildcats fell behind 4-1 after two innings.
“It was a game of highs and lows,” said Schuerman. “Our first three batters got hits and we only scored one run.”
Jeremy Carey was not pitching well early, but after Mt. Spokane scored two runs in the top of the fourth, he dialed in, said his coach, and put up zeros. A four-run fifth produced the win.
“I could hardly contain myself,” said Schuerman, while counting down the final three outs. “It was a huge monkey off the back for the program. This (tournament) will go down in the memory banks as a good one.”
Others who are in
All other classification baseball formats are the same, with four-team Saturday regionals at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 determining which team from each will advance to their respective semifinals.
Class 4A – University is in, Ferris is scheduled to play Moses Lake at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Gonzaga Prep for the GSL-CBL’s third state berth. Richland was CBL champion.
Class 2A – Champion Pullman and Clarkston are District 7 state qualifiers and will play at Davis High School in Yakima at 1 p.m. and 10 a.m. respectively.
Class 1A – Region No. 2 Chewelah and No. 3 Lakeside, upset by the Cougars last week for its first loss, play in Moses Lake at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. respectively. Freeman missed a state berth by a run.
Class 2B – District 7 champion Lind-Ritzville and No. 4 St. George’s play at Shadle Park at 1 p.m. and 10 a.m. No. 2 Liberty and No. 3 Republic play at Borleske Stadium in Walla Walla at 10 and 1.
Class 1B – Northport plays St. Michaels 11 a.m. and Almira/Coulee-Hartline plays Odessa 1 p.m. today at Avista Stadium for three state berths to be played Saturday at Naches Valley and Eisenhower high schools in Yakima.
Knights carry on
East Valley got a jump on its state soccer brethren with its first-round State 3A victory, 3-0 over Sunnyside.
Most teams play their first matches Tuesday, including University which will host Olympia in the first round of the 4A tournament.
The Knights’ victory marked the fourth time they’ve reached the round of eight at the state tournament, including semifinal appearances in 1990 and ‘92.
The Titans lost 1-0 to Pasco Friday for state seeding and faces a team that last was in the state tournament in 1998.