Longanecker delivers for Sehome in wild district opening win

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 5, 2013 

ANACOTES - This crazy game can make you a hero or a goat - and sometimes even both in the same game.

Sehome starting pitcher Brice Longanecker struggled from the start on Saturday, May 4, in the Mariners' Class 2A District 1/2 Baseball Tournament opener against Lake Washington, allowing five hits and eight runs in the game's first three innings.

And what the Kangaroos weren't doing to him, he seemed to be doing to himself with four walks.

"He seemed a little out of it out there the first couple of innings," Sehome coach Gary Hatch said. "He was obviously struggling on the mound, but he there were a couple plays where he didn't back up plays he was supposed to. He just wasn't the Brice we expected."

But in a wild game that featured a combined 29 hits, 10 errors, 15 walks, two passed balls, two wild pitches, two balks and about as many momentum changes as there were half innings, Longanecker got a chance at redemption.

And he didn't pass it up, as he laced a two-out, first-pitch fastball over Karsen Rogers' head in center field to score Tyler Knutsen from first base and give Sehome an unbelievable 15-14 victory in eight innings in a game in which the Mariners staged four comebacks, including three of two or more runs.

After emptying the dugout to mob Knutsen at home plate following Longanecker's walk-off hit, the Mariners turned their attention to a second dog pile at second base.

"It was unbelievable," Longanecker said. "I remember Jake Albert on the bottom with me yelling, 'I love you man!' Just an incredible feeling - an incredible game."

In his 33 years of coaching baseball and many more playing it, Hatch said he's never seen another game like Saturday's, calling it "The top."

Sehome (16-5) is going to need a similar effort at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 7, in the district semifinals, though, as it moves on to face defending state champion Archbishop Murphy, which beat Bellingham 3-0 later Saturday. The winner of that will receive a berth into this year's 2A State Tournament and play for the district championship.

As difficult as that challenge may sound, the Mariners will gladly tackle it, especially after the way Saturday's game started.

Before they could blink, the Kangaroos had sent nine battlers to the plate and scored four runs in the top of the first. The first of six Sehome errors in the game made all four runs unearned, but Longanecker also walked three in the frame.

"That was a difficult start," Longanecker said. "You never want to come out and walk three guys in the first inning."

But his teammates did a good job of picking him, as they also sent nine to the plate and evened the score at four when Dan Goebel raced home on the first of two Lake Washington errors in the frame.

Back and fourth it went from there, as the Kangaroos put three more unearned runs on the board in the second, as they added two more hits, another walk and took advantage of another Mariners miscue, but Sehome answered in a big way with Goebel's grand-slam blast over the left-center field wall on a 2-1 fastball to take an 8-7 lead after two.

"That was a big, big hit when we needed it most," Hatch said.

The teams each added runs in the third, before Lake Washington retook the lead with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth after Tyler Knutsen came on in relief.

"I thought Tyler did a good job of slowing things down and getting some outs for us there in the middle innings," Hatch said.

That showed, as he posted the first two scoreless frames for the Mariners in the fifth and sixth, allowing his offense to score three runs in the bottom of the fifth and build a 12-10 advantage.

Sehome brought on Brant Wark to close out the game in the seventh, but Kangaroos leadoff man Connor Johnson managed to reach on an error. A single and a walk later, Wark faced a no-out, bases-loaded jam, and Stevie Semler's single scored a pair to tie the game.

Two more runs of consecutive suicide bunts from Shawn Gray and Tyler Amundsen put the Mariners in a 14-12 hole.

But for the fourth time on the brilliant sunny Saturday afternoon, Sehome found a way to fight back into the ballgame.

Dan Goebel drew a leadoff walk from reliever Jake Masters, and Longanecker followed with an infield single. Wark loaded the bases with another walk, but back-to-back strikeouts got the Mariners down to their last out.

Josh Zavisubin, who went 4 for 5 with three runs and two RBI in the game, answered the call, ripping a screaming ground ball back up the middle to plate Goebel and Longanecker and send the game to extra innings.

Wark wiggled his way out of the top of the eighth after allowing a leadoff double, and Knutsen got things started for Sehome in the bottom half with a one-out walk.

But Masters again got Sehome down to a final out, striking out Goebel and bringing up Longanecker.

"He struck out Dan, who is one of the best hitters on our team," Longanecker said. "I knew he was going to throw fastballs, because I was lower in the order, so I was looking first-pitch fastball - something I could drive. When I got it, I just tried to keep my head down and drive it as far as I could."

Rogers seemed to turn and have a bead on it off Longanecker's bat just left of straight-away, but the ball kept carrying in the warm air, clearing Roger's outstretched glove by a few inches at about the warning track.

Knutsen was off running with two outs, and he never let up. He slid home, but there was never a play at the plate.

"That's the great thing about this game," Hatch said. "We had a guy that was struggling early, and he got a chance for redemption. I was so glad to see that for Brice. This was just a wild one, I'll tell you. It had so many ups and downs, highs and lows, and I'm just so glad we got to finish on a high."

The first seven batters in Sehome lineup all had multi-hit games, as Sehome collected 17. Jacob Manson went 3 for 5 with four runs scored, while Goebel went 2 for 4 with three runs and five RBI.

"We wanted this game bad," Longanecker said. "They wanted it bad. I think you could tell by the way both teams played so hard today. We're just happy that we were the ones that ended up winning it."

Reach David Rasbach at david.rasbach@bellinghamherald.com or 360-715-2286.

SEHOME 15, LAKE WASHINGTON 14 (8)

Lake Washington 431 200 40 - 14 12 4

Sehome 441 030 21 - 15 17 6

WP: Brant Wark. LP: Jake Masters. Highlights: Sehome: Josh Zavisubin 4-5, 3 R, 2 RBI, 2B; Jake Albert 2-5, 2 R; Jacob Manson 3-5, 4 R; Tyler Knutsen 2-4, 2 R, 2 RBI; Daniel Goebel, 2-4, 3 R, 5 RBI, GS; Brice Longanecker 2-4, R, 3 RBI, 2B; Brant Wark 2-4, RBI.

Reach DAVID RASBACH at david.rasbach@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2271.

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