It was a satisfying week for Gonzaga Prep’s Justin Blatner.
His team won three times to secure at least a tie for the Greater Spokane League baseball championship.
The junior left-hander hit a home run and pitched a three-hit shutout in Thursday’s 15-0 win over Mead and blasted a first-inning grand slam Friday that all but sealed the deal in the Bullpups’ 11-1, six-inning triumph over visiting University. The blast was his fourth home run of the season.
As a team, the Bullpups generally had their way this week, scoring 41 runs and allowing eight while building a three-game lead in league with three games remaining – a rematch Monday at U-Hi and season-ending home-and-home games with Ferris.
In the bottom of the first, Prep put four players on base without scoring, with a Titans double play threatening to send a team with the bases loaded back to the dugout empty handed.
But U-Hi starter Davis Hill walked in a run before Blatner, who said he enjoys batting seventh in the order, hit a no-doubter over the fence in right-center field.
“I’m hunting first-pitch fastball,” Blatner said. “If I find it and it’s in the general area I’m going to swing at it.”
Prep carried the five-run lead into the fourth inning, where it scored three times to put the game away. Sophomore Jordan Rathbone hit his second double of the day, driving in two runs. In the sixth, Chris Szambelan doubled home the game-ender. It was the third successive loss for the Titans (8-7).
Blatner harkened back to the shutout loss at Mt. Spokane when “the bats weren’t feeling good.”
“We came back a little ticked off and it lit a fire a little bit,” he said. “Next thing we know we come out the next couple of games and we had nothing but bats.”
Besides Friday’s five spot, Gonzaga Prep (16-1 overall, 14-1 in league) had a seven-run, two-out outburst against Mead, he said.
If there has been an Achilles’ heel in Prep’s run to the GSL title, it’s been a defense that committed three errors against University.
“Today was sloppy,” coach Brian Munhall said. “I told them yesterday (after the win over Mead) it was probably the best game I’ve ever seen on this field. We turned two double plays, pitched great and hit great. Today we were a little bit lazy.”
Winning pitcher Wyatt Mills worked out of jams in the first inning when he loaded the bases and third when he gave up three hits during five innings of work.