BLAINE - Meridian senior Chad Richter has kind of gotten used to playing in the championship game of the Class 1A Northwest District Baseball Tournament. In fact, after either watching or helping the Trojans make it to the game and win it the first three years of his high school career, he's come to expect it.
"It's almost a tradition now," Richter said. "We get here every year. It would almost be weird if we didn't get here."
Richter made sure there was no chance of that happening in 2013, as he threw a two-hit shutout at Lynden Christian in a tournament semifinal on Thursday, May 2, at Blaine's Pipeline Fields and added a crucial RBI double to lead Meridian to a 2-0 victory.
The Trojans (13-8) will face Mount Baker for the district title and an automatic berth into the 1A State Playoffs at 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 4, at Pipeline. Lynden Christian (8-13), meanwhile, must win a 10 a.m. elimination game against South Whidbey on Saturday to advance to the tri-district tournament.
"We get to play again," Lyncs coach Desi Luna said. "That's the most important part."
Richter became the second Trojans starting pitcher in as many days to help his cause at the plate, following Jeremy Brockmann's 4-for-4, four-RBI performance in a first-round win over Nooksack Valley on Wednesday, May 1.
"Those are our seniors," Meridian coach Steve Slesk said. "We expect them to carry the load, and they're doing it. Chad, we rode him today. He was outstanding on the mound - I think they only had one hard hit all day. He's swinging it, too. He's ready to go."
In a routine Slesk said Meridian has seen in Richter's past three or four starts, the right-hander certainly came ready to go on Thursday.
He opened the game by striking out the first two batters he faced and retired the first six, before he hit Alex Vander Velden with his second pitch of the third inning.
The Lyncs managed to load the bases against him in that frame, but he struck out Truman Van Dalen to end the threat.
That was the only time LC seemed to get to the lanky right-hander.
"Coach (Rick) Foster is great at making him redial in and refocus, and Chad did that," Slesk said. "Today he got right back on the horse. Sometimes he'll have a tendency to let up a little bit on his fastball and his curveball. Guys start getting to him, but not today."
Richter allowed a single to Dalton Biehle in the fourth, and Jamie Heystek reached base on an error in the sixth, but that was it, as he struck out seven and did not surrender a walk.
Richter was most effective on the inner half of the plate, busting LC batters inside where they had difficulty handling him.
And just when they got used to him working on their hands, he'd catch them off balance with a well-timed pitch on the outside corner.
"I was able to burn them inside most of the time," Richter said. "I was able to throw my fastball inside."
For the most part, Biehle matched Richter pitch for pitch, as the Lynden Christian sophomore limited Meridian to four hits and struck out four while surrendering no walks.
But unlike Richter, he made one big mistake pitch.
And Richter just happened to be the guy that made him pay, ripping a 1-1 offering in the fourth inning into the right-center field gap and scoring Brockmann, who was aboard after being hit by a pitch, from first base.
"I was looking for something I could drive," Richter said of his RBI double. "I knew I would get it. I took the third one he gave me."
Richter's courtesy runner, Erick Price, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Tanner Tutterrow's sacrifice fly.
"Both kids were great today on the mound," Luna said. "Richter, that was a big hit. That was just a monster hit. He pitched well too. He was real good on the mound. I was real pleased with our guy. He kept us in the game. We just couldn't get that hit."
Both pitchers also benefited from some tremendous defensive plays, as the two teams combined for only one error.
Vander Velden made a nice sliding grab on a fly ball in foul territory down the left-field line to retire Brockmann in the bottom of the sixth, while Tutterrow saved Richter a bloop hit with a nice running, over-the-shoulder catch to rob Vander Velden.
"We are a good defensive team," Slesk said. "Sometimes we don't show it, but we can play good defense. If we can help our pitcher out the way we did today, I think we can go a long ways."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
MERIDIAN 2, LYNDEN CHRISTIAN 0
Lynden Christian 000 000 0 - 0 2 0
Meridian 000 100 0 - 1 4 1
WP: Chad Richter. LP: Dalton Biehle. Highlights: Lynden Christian: Jamie Heystek 1-3, Dalton Biehle 1-3. Meridian: Tucker Bronkema 1-3; Chad Richter 1-2, RBI, 2B; Tanner Tutterrow 1-1, RBI; Josh Hosick 1-2.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.