The baseball bounced so slowly up the middle it barely made the outfield grass. But it’s a line drive in the scorebook.
Jack Slater’s infield hit in the bottom of the seventh inning found no-man’s land between second base and shortstop, scoring Chris Szambelan from second that gave Gonzaga Prep its third one-run victory over Ferris this year.
This one, 4-3 Tuesday afternoon at Prep, assured the Bullpups a State 4A tournament appearance for the first time in 25 years.
“I don’t even know the last time we went to state,” said Slater, the hero of the moment. “I know we’re hanging a banner for the first time since like ’87 or something so that’s big for the school.”
The Bullpups play Richland on Saturday for state seeding. Ferris meets Mead for the third state berth. The Panthers blanked Wenatchee 8-0 to advance, but were beaten 6-3 by Richland in the second game.
Gonzaga Prep was playing a Saxons team that in an earlier game had ousted Davis 11-6 from the subregional tournament between Greater Spokane League and Columbia Basin Big Nine schools.
After jumping ahead on Ferris 3-1 behind Kane Ulrich’s two-out two-run single in the first inning, G-Prep was in danger of giving it back. Saxons left-hander Tim Yoshihara recovered from a rocky start and retired 13 of the next 14 Bullpups batters.
The teams were tied 3-3 heading into the seventh inning.
As he had all game long, Prep pitcher David Machtolf struggled but worked out of jams. Three early double plays saved him, limiting Ferris to solo runs in the first three innings.
Szambelan was on second with two outs in the Bullpups’ final at-bat. Ferris intentionally walked Zach Bonneau, putting the onus on Slater.
“It’s just one of those things you envision,” Slater said. “I just went up there and was trying to poke one through. It worked out for me.”
Gonzaga Prep played without head coach Brian Munhall, suspended for an incident in last week’s District 8 title game. In his stead at third base was his predecessor and current assistant, Greg Gores.
“Yoshihara pitched well after that first inning,” Gores said in assessing the triumph. “(But) you always say ‘hit ’em where they ain’t’ and we did that a couple of times.”
Ferris 11, Davis 6: Two home runs were among a 14-hit offensive barrage off Davis pitching that offset six Saxons errors in the opening game.
Travis Key and Taylor Jones hit solo shots between outs in the third inning for a 5-0 lead.
“The warm weather’s been huge for the bats,” Key said. “I hit one out the other day and it felt the same so I had a suspicion it was out.”
The inning before Chris Belaurier hit the first of two doubles and Ryan Kirkpatrick doubled home two runs. The score was 7-1 before Davis plated four runs in the fifth inning.
Now the Saxons face GSL foe Mead for the final state berth.
Richland 6, Mead 3: The Bombers scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth and secured a spot in the state playoffs with a win over the Panthers in Richland.
Mead, which beat Wenatchee 8-0 earlier in the day, will play Ferris on Saturday in Richland.