FERNDALE - It was an end of a era on Friday, April 26. And not just for the four seniors the Ferndale baseball team honored in a pregame ceremony.
A group of Lynden senior three-sport athletes, who so far have helped the Lions win two football state titles, another state title and a third-place trophy in basketball and a state runner-up finish in baseball last spring, played their final regular-season game in Whatcom County on Friday.
Lynden still has its regular-season finale at Sedro-Woolley on Monday, April 29, before heading to the Class 2A District 1/2 Tournament in Anacortes, and there is a chance the Lions could play in the Bellingham regional of the 2A State Tournament at Joe Martin Field should they earn the first or third seed out of the district tournament. But other than that possibility, Friday marked the last time those decorated seniors will get to wear Lions green and gold and play together close to home.
"It definitely hit us on our senior night," Lynden senior Zach Vis said. "We realized it was the last time playing in Lynden on our home field as Lynden Lions. It's kind of surreal to think about that we'll never play in Whatcom County again. It's a weird feeling."
Vis did everything he could to make sure to send the Lions out winners. Not only did he have an impressive day on the mound, he belted his third homer of the year to spur Lynden to an 8-4 Northwest Conference victory.
The win was particularly important, as it kept Lynden (17-1, 10-1) alone atop the Northwest Conference standings. A win Monday at Sedro-Woolley (11-6, 9-2), which beat Blaine 4-2 on Friday, would give the Lions their first conference championship since they won the Northwest League title in 1998 and only their second title in the past 20 years, according to coach Cory White.
It would also give them the top seed into the district tournament.
"It's big for us for sure," Vis said. "Coach hasn't won it (the title) before. We haven't won it before as baseball players. We're going to get after it on Monday, and we're going to fight for it. It would be awesome to get it and a positive note heading into the postseason."
Vis certainly sent Lynden into that game on a positive note, which is something White said he needed out of his No. 2 starter against Ferndale (12-7, 8-3), which entered Monday having won four straight and, itself, hoping to lay claim at least a portion of the NWC crown.
"He's had some really good starts for us this year, and then he's had some starts where he'd probably tell you he could have gotten out of there with a better pitch count or he wasn't that close around the zone," White said of Vis. "He came out today and threw really well. I knew he was eager to get on the bump today. That was huge - his presence on the mound."
It didn't take long for Vis to establish himself, as he sat the Eagles down in order in first and breezed through the first four innings allowing only a second-inning double to opposing pitcher Brad Bauthues, two walks and a hit batter.
He probably would have made it through the fifth without any damage either, if a ball off the bat of Marshall Weston hadn't taken an unexpected hop over the glove of Lynden shortstop Tanner Olson to prolong the inning and allow Pete Pennylegion to drive in Brad Shearer.
But Vis bounced back with a scoreless sixth.
"We kind of let him get into a groove," Ferndale coach Donny Hennigs said. "He's a proven athlete. He's done a lot of things. Today he was just better than us early on."
Ferndale finally touched Vis for three runs in the seventh when he tired a little, as he finished with 124 pitches, but he managed to close out the game, allowing six hits, four walks and striking out four.
When he wasn't painting the corners with his fastball or using an effective slider, he was crushing a first-pitch fastball from Bauthues over the left-field fence for his third home run of the season in the third inning.
"That was one off the bat you knew it was gone just by the sound of it," White said. "When a guy's pitching, you rely so much on him from the defensive standpoint to do his job. But when he gets rewarded by something like that, it's pretty cool. He's a competitor. He wants to do it from both sides of the diamond."
Vis' solo shot gave Lynden a 3-0 lead, after Jordan Wittenberg singled in Olson then scored on Peter Bovenkamp's double in the second.
Lynden stretched its lead to 4-0 in the fourth when Bovenkamp scored on Luke Christianson's ground ball.
After Ferndale scored its run in the fifth, Lynden answered with two in the sixth. Wittenberg scored on Shane Treloar's safety squeeze bunt and Christianson singled in Bovenkamp. Wittenberg and Bovenkamp also scored in the seventh on Treloar's double.
All told, Lynden's 7, 8 and 9 hitters - Wittenberg, Bovenkamp and Treloar - combined to go 6 for 10 with six runs scored, five RBI and two doubles, led by a 3-for-4 performance by Wittenberg, who is a freshman.
"Wittenberg is a stud," Vis said. "He's contributing to our team already as a Lynden Lion. It's going to be exciting to see what he can do. Other guys like Shane Treloar and Peter Bovenkamp hit the crap out of the ball today, too. That's what we need to go deep in the postseason, is production from our entire lineup."
Ferndale, which got two hits each from Bauthues and Shearer, also is looking ahead to the postseason after it gets past its regular season finale at Bellingham on Monday.
"The end goal is we want to prepare ourselves for the (3A) district tournament," Hennigs said. "The way you do that is playing quality teams. You get more out of those pressure situations when it's against good teams. I tip my cap to Lynden. They're a good team. They are a 3A-caliber team we are going to run into next week."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
LYNDEN 8, FERNDALE 4
Lynden 021 102 2 - 8 11 0
Home 000 010 3 - 4 6 3
WP: Zach Vis (4-1). LP: Brady Bauthues. Highlights: Lynden: Luke Christianson 1-4, 2 RBI; Zach Vis 2-4, R, RBI, HR; Tanner Olson 2-4, R; Jordan Witteneurg 3-4, 3 R, RBI; Peter Bovenkamp 2-3, 3 R, RBI, 2B; Shane Treloar 1-3, 3 RBI, 2B. Ferndale: Pete Pennylegion 1-4, R, RBI; Brady Bauthues 2-3, RBI, 2B; Brady Shearer 2-2, 2 R.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2286.