LYNDEN - Through last week, 18 homers had been hit by Whatcom County batters during the 2013 high school baseball season, and more than half of them (11) were collected by Lynden.
But on Monday, April 22, in a battle of the two remaining one-loss teams in Northwest Conference play, the Lions proved they know how to play with a little more diligence, as well. Lynden batters showed tremendous patience, especially early, when they scored all three runs in a 3-0 victory that puts them in the driver's seat for the league title.
"That was a fun game," Lynden coach Cory White said. "But it's nice that it's done, too, because those can be nerve wracking games."
Tanner Olson made things a whole lot easier on White's nerves, as he threw a three-hit shutout for Lynden (15-1, 8-1 NWC) in a match up of five-win pitchers.
"You get pumped up for games like that," Olson said.
Maybe a touch too pumped up, as Olson allowed a hit back up the middle to the first batter he faced - Josh Zavisubin - along with a one-out walk to Jake Manson in the first inning, but he settled down to pick up a couple of strikeouts to end the frame - a harbinger of what he would also do in the third and fifth innings, as he did not allow a runner past second base the entire game.
"That gets you going a little bit," Olson said of the first. "It got the sweat going, and got everything moving along. I got in a rhythm a little bit, and I felt good after that."
Olson ended up striking out seven and walking only two, as he consistently got ahead of Sehome batters and kept them off balance with his terrific slider.
"His slider is as good as I've seen it in any year that I've coached this thing," Sehome coach Gary Hatch said. "He's a good, hard-throwing senior. He's learned a lot. I've watched him since he was a freshman, and the maturity that he has garnished over these last four years is fun to watch. ... He's a big dog out there."
Sehome (13-4, 7-2) countered with it's own bulldog on the mound in Brice Longanecker, who like Olson will be pitching in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges next year - Longanecker at Yakima Valley College, Olson at Lower Columbia College.
Lynden's plan against Longanecker was to work the count and make him use a lot of pitches early - the more the better.
"We saw that he was struggling earlier in the game, and we told our guys be a little more selective - make him throw strikes," White said. "So we took a lot on 3-0. Even 2-0 we took some just to get that pitch count up."
Up and up it went. In fact by the end of the third inning, Longanecker was already 80 pitches in.
Surprisingly, he made it through to record a complete game, lowering his pitch totals to single digits in the fourth and fifth innings. He finished with 120 pitches, as he allowed one earned run on six hits and four walks and struck out three.
"He's the (Greg) Maddux of our league," Hatch said. "He's not overpowering. He's crafty. He competes. He may have a little bit of trouble at the front end, but he'll keep going. That's the beauty of him, is he'll keep working. ... He gave us everything he had."
Unfortunately for Longanecker and the Mariners, the Lions' patient approach early proved to be the difference.
Zach Vis drew a two-out walk in the first, stole second and raced home on Matt Meyer's bleeding single down the right-field line.
An inning later, it was Vis' bases-loaded, line-drive single to left field on an 0-2 pitch that plated Jordan Wittenburg and Luke Christianson. Wittenburg, who had two hits in the game, led off the inning with a double, and Christianson drew the first of two two-out walks to set the table for Vis and prove the Lions don't need the long ball to win.
"It gives us diversity," Olson said of Lynden's patient offensive approach. "If the ball's not going as far as it usually does, when you come through with singles and get on base and clutch up and start playing small ball around the yard, it can make stuff start to happen."
Both teams still have three games left before the start of the Class 2A District 1/2 Tournament May 4 in Anacortes. The Lions next host Blaine on Wednesday, April 24, while Sehome will entertain Nooksack Valley.
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
LYNDEN 3, SEHOME 0
Sehome 000 000 0 - 0 3 3
Lynden 120 000 0 - 3 6 1
WP: Tanner Olson (6-0). LP: Brice Longanecker (5-2). Highlights: Sehome: Josh Zavisubin 2-3, Jake Manson 1-2. Lynden: Zach Vis 1-2, R, RBI, SB; Matt Meyer 1-3, RBI; Tanner Olson 1-3, Ryan Mouat 1-3, 2B; Jordan Wittenberg 2-3, R, 2B, SB.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.