SEDRO-WOOLLEY - Lynden's Triple Crown of state titles may have fallen one extra-inning run short last year. And it may be impossible this year, after the boys' basketball team's third-place finish at state almost two months ago.
But the Lions still can claim to have won a trifecta of Northwest Conference titles.
"It just shows Lynden sports is pretty tough," Lions senior outfielder Luke Christianson said. "We're coming at you. It's good to get the three in a row."
Lynden's heralded senior class of three-sports athletes added another feather to its cap on Monday, April 29, as it claimed the school's first conference or league title in baseball since 1998 with a 3-0 victory over surprising Sedro-Woolley at Janicki Fields. Tanner Olson threw a four-hit shutout, striking out 13 in the process, while Christianson provided the offensive excitement by stealing home, as the Lions can now hang their conference champion baseball banner right next to the ones they won in football and boys' basketball earlier this year.
The win was particularly important, because it gave Lynden the NWC's No. 1 seed into the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament, keeping the Lions on the other side of the bracket from defending state champion Archbishop Murphy, a tough Lake Washington team that finished second in the 2A/3A Kingco standings and a Bellingham squad that beat them in the district tournament last year as well as earlier this year.
"Those are three really good teams," Lynden coach Cory White said. "We wanted to control where we wanted to be. Those are three quality teams, but there are quality teams on our side of the bracket, too."
Lynden will now face the Cascade Conference No. 3 seed - either Granite Falls or Lakewood - at 3 p.m. when the district tournament opens Saturday, May 4, at Anacortes.
"Coming into district No. 1 is huge," Christianson said. "Confidence-wise, it's a huge boost for us."
And Lynden certainly wouldn't be there without the consistency of its pitching or its defense, White said.
That was never more apparent than on Monday.
As he has been all season, Olson was simply dominant.
The only time he was in trouble was the first inning, when he allowed a two-out single to Jackson Conn, before Zack Malmberg out-dueled Olson for a bloop single into center field in an 11-pitch at-bat. The runners moved up to second and third on a balk call, but Olson responded by striking out Kyle Robbins to end the threat.
The only negative of the frame was Olson needed 23 pitches to get through it. But that didn't rattle the senior one bit.
"I've been in shape all season long," Olson said. "I've been in shape to go that entire distance."
He didn't even end up needing to showcase how good a shape he's in, as he was relatively efficient with his pitches the rest of the way, as he finished with 97.
Only three other Cubs reached base on him, and he didn't issue a walk. Olson ended up striking out the side in order to end the game in the seventh and also had three strikeouts in the third inning as the 13 Ks was a season high.
"It was good coming out here, throwing strikes and getting the defense involved," Olson said. "Everything was working good."
Olson will likely get the call again for Lynden in its first-round game on Saturday.
"It's a double-edged sword, in that you got your No. 1 guy throwing the start going into district, meaning he doesn't get the normal rest," White said. "But that was a huge win for us tonight. The win meant a lot for us, so we had to go with our No. 1 guy. I don't think he's given up an earned run all year in conference play. That puts him 7-0. He earned the moment to be in there, and he showed why."
He also made it so Lynden needed to generate only minimal offense to get the win.
With only three hits, the Lions made the most of the few opportunities they did get.
Peter Bovenkamp picked up a leadoff single in the third, before Shane Treloar sacrificed him to second. After Christianson was hit by a pitch, both runners were able to advance on a wild pitch, allowing Bovenkamp to score on Josh Kraght's deep fly ball to center field.
Christianson also moved to third on the play, setting up the most dramatic play of the game, when he stole home on a 1-1 pitch to Zach Vis, sliding underneath the tag to make it 2-0.
Christianson said it was actually the "third or fourth time" he has been asked to steal home this year, and so far it's been "100 percent."
"Coach White does as great job of setting those things up," Christianson said. "He calls the play. It shows that he trusts in our ability to make plays. It's fun. ... Usually he sets it up so we'll wait a pitch or two so we can see how long his delivery is. As soon as his back foot is off the rubber, we're going. I was flying."
Ryan Mouat added an insurance run in the seventh when he walked and scored on a two-base error.
"It's an honor to win the conference title," White said. "It's not an easy thing to win in baseball. Pitchers have so much of a factor on the outcome of a conference title, and I thought our pitchers did an outstanding job. We used the consistency of our pitching and defense to win it."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
LYNDEN 3, SEDRO-WOOLLEY 0
Lynden 002 000 1 - 3 3 1
Sedro-Woolly 000 000 0 - 0 4 2
WP: Tanner Olson (7-0). LP: Collin Hannon. Highlights: Lyn - Luke Christianson 0-2, R, SB; Matt Meyer 1-3, Peter Bovenkamp 1-3, Shane Treloar 1-1.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.