The hottest pitchers and hottest team continued smoking on the first day of District 8 4A baseball and left the Greater Spokane League’s top two playoff seeds on the outside looking in.
In Wednesday’s opener at Avista Stadium, Central Valley left-hander J.T. Beach handcuffed Mead for six innings of a 6-2 Bears victory.
League champ University took a chance that backfired in the nightcap and upstart Lewis and Clark took advantage, winning for the 11th time in 12 games, 9-1, to join CV in Friday’s 7 p.m. championship final, also at Avista.
The top-seeded Titans and second-seeded Panthers meet in the 4 p.m. opener. One’s season will end, the other needs two wins to maintain a chance at state.
Central Valley 6, Mead 2: CV (17-4) made the Panthers pay for walking the numbers eight and nine hitters in its lineup with two outs in the second inning. Leadoff hitter David Borgman and No. 2 Dane Berg slugged back-to-back two-run doubles.
That was more than enough for Beach (3-0), who didn’t pitch this season until April 17 because of a back injury. Making his fourth start, Beach allowed just three baserunners through five innings and six overall during a one-hit, nine-strikeout stint.
“Beach was phenomenal,” coach Barry Poffenroth said. “He’s a gamer.”
Mixing his fastball with a sharply breaking pitch, he kept the Panthers off-balance until running out of gas in his final inning. Both Poffenroth and Beach, however, said his curveball wasn’t what it can be.
“He was not throwing it for strikes early,” Poffenroth said. “We should have kept calling it, hoping it would come around. When he gets it over for a strike, he’s tough.”
Beach said that much of his effort was spent relying on and locating the fastball, although he did use the bender effectively at times as a set-up pitch and, as it turned out, he was plenty tough enough.
As for Borgman, besides the two-run double, his infield single with the bases loaded in the third plated Fano Pau, who had doubled, with CV’s third run.
“I needed to get it done with two outs,” Borgman said. “My first at-bat (when he struck out) I was kind of guessing. After that I settled down and waited for the fastball.”
Berg also had two hits and Pau later singled in a run.
Pitchers Beach and Mead’s Chris Allen combined for four strikeouts in the first inning. In the second, CV’s Coedy Cooley singled between a pair of outs, but Allen walked Spencer Nichols and Cory Mack to send up Borgman and Berg, who delivered.
Two more walks, following Pau’s double in the third, led to Borgman’s third RBI. Berg singled and scored on Pau’s hit in the sixth.
The Panthers scored their runs in the seventh off a Jake Schrader triple, Kyle Courtney double, Andy Larson single and sacrifice fly.
The victory puts CV one win away from a return to regional
“You’ve got to win two games before you lose two, that’s what I told (the players),” Poffenroth said. “This is a start.”
Lewis and Clark 9, University 1: Facing the district’s No. 5 seed, the Titans (18-3) opted to save pitching ace Billy Moon for Friday and the Tigers (14-8) made them pay.
Capitalizing on shaky U-Hi defense and dormant offense, it was LC that played like the favorite.
On the heels of Jimmy Reed’s shutout victory in the first district playoff, Tiger Benny Baird blanked the Titans through six innings of this one, also putting the Tigers a win away from regional.
“As we talked earlier about the two-headed (pitching) monster, we got a great performance out of Benny Baird tonight,” coach Dexter Davis said. “He pitched his way out of a couple jams. And it was just a great overall team performance in terms of timely hits.”
Baird did a great job of mixing up pitches and locations and in the first four innings struck out four batters looking, three times with runners in scoring position.
Garrick Little walked and scored on an error in the first. A two-out double by Sage Poland and a second Titans error led to two more unearned runs in the third. Josh Martin had an RBI single.
In the fifth inning, LC put five successive runners on base, including a two-run single by Donnie Santos, and tacked on four more runs. The final two scores came in the seventh.
The Tigers finished with 13 hits off two U-Hi pitchers and ran the bases extremely well, consistently taking extra bases, including home plate. Poland finished with three hits, John Goodwin and Dean Nielson two each. Both of Nielson’s were doubles.
“Obviously, you want to peak at the right time,” Davis said of his streaking Tigers. “I would hope our record indicates that at this time.”
The Titans, meanwhile, proved an exercise in futility. They loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning and couldn’t score and had runners in scoring position the next two innings with two outs, but watched called third strikes. Their only run came in the bottom of the final inning.
And they compounded it by committing five errors.
“This was a big win, probably the biggest I’ve been a part of,” Davis said. “But like I told the kids at the end of the game we still have work to do. We’re playing our best baseball right now and look forward to Friday. We have to stay humble and hopefully can play a similar game with a similar result.”
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