YAKIMA – When the pitcher gets to the bottom of the order, especially on the high school level, he should be able to relax and overpower hitters.
Not so with the Pullman Greyhounds, who used the entire lineup to clobber Blaine 11-2 at Parker Field and earn a spot in the State 2A championship.
Pullman (23-2) will play Lakewood (23-4), which defeated Chewelah 3-1.
Early on, it looked like Blaine would be tough, as Borderites starter Joey Paciorek, the nephew of former Seattle Mariner Tom Paciorek, struck out four in the first two innings.
Blaine took the lead 2-1 in the beginning of the third with a two-run double by Craig Rothwell off Pullman starter Justin Cooper.
Then Blaine fell apart in the third inning.
After two sparkling defensive plays by second baseman Kyle Dhanani, Pullman’s Kyle Hinrichs grounded the ball through the hole at short and never stopped running, sliding into second with a 150-foot double.
Cooper followed with an RBI single to tie it, then Ryan Druffel walked.
Next up was Mitch Riddle, who singled to left field to score Cooper; Druffel raced home when the ball got past the left fielder.
Kale Stephenson courtesy ran for Riddle. Blaine catcher Aaron Johnson tried to pick him off and threw the ball into center field. The center fielder whiffed on the bouncing ball, and Stephenson scored.
That’s four runs on three hits, three errors and no chance for Blaine.
“We tried not to panic (when they got ahead),” Pullman head coach Lance Lincoln said. “Then they kicked it around a little bit, and that changed the way Cooper pitched. He was looking around like, ‘Can I get any help?’ and then it looked like he started to spot the ball a little better.”
Cooper went six innings for the win, allowing four hits and two runs while striking out nine.
“We came out a little tight,” said Cooper (7-2). “Once we got going, we loosened up. I didn’t think we would be so jittery.”
Another key for Pullman was chasing Blaine’s ace Paciorek, who came into the game with a 0.57 ERA.
“We got a phone call about him to just wait him out,” Lincoln said.
Paciorek, a sophomore, lasted only three innings, giving up three hits and five runs (two earned). He walked five and struck out four. Pullman raked Blaine pitching all throughout the lineup, with nine players getting hits and eight driving in runs.
“I wouldn’t want to (face us),” Lincoln said. “From one through nine, we’re as strong as anybody. Our nine hitter could be the three hitter somewhere else.”
Indeed, Pullman’s No. 9 hitter, center fielder Sam Tennant, crushed a ball off the top of the 20-foot wall at Parker Field, 400 feet from home plate for an RBI triple in the fifth inning.
“The bottom of our lineup has come up big for us the last couple games,” Cooper said.
The Greyhounds will play Lakewood, who did just enough off Chewelah starter A.J. Proszek.
Proszek balked in a run in the first, but the Cougars (19-7) came back in the third with a Kiel Smith single followed by an RBI double by Proszek.
Lakewood scored in the fourth to take the lead on a sacrifice fly by Jacob Burns, and got another single run in the fifth on an RBI groundout by Brandon Stauffer.
Proszek allowed only three hits and one walk in the complete-game loss. He struck out eight Lakewood batters.
Lakewood sophomore Ryan Martin was better, though, giving up one run on five hits for the win.
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