All the suicide squeezes, sacrifice flies, double steals and walk-off home runs have finally led several Spokane area teams to this Saturday: a spot in the state playoffs and a chance to hang a banner at its schools.
Big schools like Lewis and Clark, Gonzaga Prep, Mt. Spokane, Cheney and East Valley, must travel in quests to earn State trophies. While smaller schools Freeman, Northwest Christian, Colfax and Colton, get to play near home.
“Everybody is good from here on out,” Mt. Spokane coach Alex Schuerman said. “The first team to win four wins it all.”
GSL pair in 4A hunt
For the first time in 22 years, Spokane is sending two 4A teams to the field of 16. Gonzaga Prep (21-3) got there last year, but lost its first game. Lewis and Clark coach Steve Bennett wasn’t sure the last time the Tigers played for it all.
“We are playing good baseball in this city right now,” Bennett said. “I think our (Greater Spokane League) season has prepared us to make a nice playoff run.”
The Tigers (15-7) will square off at 10 a.m. Saturday in Yakima against a 16-7 Wenatchee team, which is expected to start left-hander Grady Miller on the mound.
“He throws hard, changes speeds and hits his spots. He doesn’t give in to hitters,” Bennett said. “The scouting report is that he is just a stud.”
Lewis and Clark will start pitcher Karver Pate, who threw a no-hitter earlier in the season.
“The kids are really happy to still be playing baseball,” Bennett said.
At the same time further west in Tacoma, the Bullpups will take on Battle Ground, which is northeast of Vancouver.
“Their No. 1 pitcher is a lot like (Steven) Machtolf. He throws it over, but he’s not going to overpower you, which I like,” Gonzaga Prep coach Brian Munhall said. “I like our matchup.”
Munhall said he hasn’t decided between righty Machtolf or lefty Justin Blatner. If Gonzaga Prep wins, they probably would face a nationally ranked Puyallup team, which is 24-0.
“Between us and Mt. Spokane, I think we can pretty well square up against just about anybody,” Munhall said. “I don’t care who walks in the yard, we should be able to play anybody tough.”
The Mt. Spokane Wildcats (18-5) travel to Richland to play a 10 a.m. game against the Hanford Falcons, a team they know very well.
Mt. Spokane played Hanford the first game of the season and went into the seventh inning with a 6-5 lead. But a Hanford player smacked a walk-off, three-run home run to win the game 8-6.
Then last weekend in Kennewick, Wildcats pitching phenom Drew Rasmussen hit a walk-off single in the seventh inning to beat Hanford 4-3.
“Both games could have gone either way,” coach Alex Schuerman said. “It’s going to be a tough matchup against a very good team.”
Mt. Spokane will use Rasmussen, an Oregon State recruit, who is 10-0 this year. Hanford will use Jake Anderson, who is 8-2 with one of those loses coming last week to the Wildcats.
“We are hoping for three straight weekends in the Tri-Cities,” Schuerman said, “because the finals (May 30-31) are in Pasco.”
Great Northern League champion East Valley and fellow league member Cheney both travel to Yakima to play on Saturday.
The Blackhawks (13-8) play at 1 p.m. against Ellensburg (18-5), while the Knights play the 10 a.m. game against Selah.
“We haven’t been to the field of 16 since 2005, so the kids are very excited,” East Valley coach John Phelan said. “Nobody is griping about a long season, which is nice.”
Phelan said he’s struggled to find much about Selah, which is 21-3 coming into the game.
“Our pitching is obviously our strength. And defensively, we’ve played solidly,” Phelan said.
The Knights (17-5) will start hard-throwing Gage Burland, who is committed to play at Gonzaga, and Whitworth-bound J.T. Phelan if East Valley advances to a second game.
“The main thing we have is our pitching,” he said. “It’s essential right now.”
Other area games
Freeman had a monster year, but fell twice last Saturday to Brewster and Cascade in the 1A bi-district tournament at Wenatchee Valley Community College.
Even with the losses, the Scotties earned a spot in the field of 16 and will play Naches Valley at 1 p.m. Saturday in Moses Lake.
Two areas schools qualified for the 2B final field of 16. Northwest Christian will play Kittitas at 10 a.m. at Avista Stadium. Later in the day, Colfax will take on DeSales at 1 p.m., also at Avista Stadium.
In 1B action, Colton drubbed Republic 16-0 in the 1B sub-regional title game last week at University High School to earn the top seed in the field of eight for the state playoffs. Colton will play Sunnyside Christian at 1 p.m. Saturday at Medical Lake.