ANACORTES - After a masterful performance through six innings, Archbishop Murphy starting pitcher Derrick Mahlum found himself unraveling in the seventh.
Despite a comfy 3-0 cushion, the Wildcats hurler gave up a leadoff single to Bellingham freshman Austin Shenton and a walk to the next batter. With the Bellingham fans on their feet and the music blaring, and seeing his pitcher forced to deal with multiple runners on base for the first time all day, Murphy head coach Stan Taloff called for time so he could have a chat with his pitcher.
He took with him some simple advice: Just focus on the next guy.
"I just told him that he's got to throw strikes and the only guy that hurts us is the guy at the plate so let's get the guy at the plate," Taloff said.
Mahlum did just that - three straight times actually - striking out the side to finish off a complete-game win and secure the Wildcats' 3-0 victory over the Red Raiders in the 2A District 1/2 first-round game on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Daniels Field in Anacortes.
"I had to rebuild my game plan and just throw strikes," Mahlum said of his refocusing after allowing the first two batters on base. "That was a good way to end the game."
Mahlum's three strikeouts in the seventh were half of his total for the game as the Wildcats senior carved up the Bellingham lineup. Working his changeup and curveball for strikes, Mahlum limited the Red Raiders to just two hits and walked only one in the game's first six frames.
"Their pitcher was good," Bellingham coach David Farrell said. "The first time through the order, we didn't put great at-bats against him. After the fourth inning on, though, we put had ABs."
Bellingham faces Lake Washington in an elimination game at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 7, on Daniels Feild.
Offensively Archbishop Murphy manufactured enough runs to win, scoring a run in each of the first three innings. The Wildcats threatened with multiple runners on base three times but each time Bellingham starter Matt Richard limited the damage and wriggled off the hook. Murphy stranded nine runners on base, including twice with the bases loaded.
"They swung the bats well and had nine hits off us," Farrell said. "They were hunting fastballs early against Matt, and they got some. They were able to get some runs across early in the game, but I thought Matt battled tough."
Aiding Richard was the fact all eight of Archbishop Murphy's hits were singles, but the Wildcats took advantage of five sacrifices in the game, including two sacrifice bunts by Mahlum, to cobble together the runs.
"Baseball being baseball you've got to find a way to manufacture runs because if you don't and you plan to do things the same way you did during the middle of the season things don't always work out that way," Taloff said. "If they give you a big inning you'll take it but for the most part we've got to play scratch-and-claw baseball."
In the first inning, Murphy's Casey Dawes scored the game's first run from second base on a single up the middle by Zander Clouse. Dawes dugge inside and slid past the tag of catcher Connor Phelps. Camden Buchanan, who reached base all three times he came up, walked after Clouse's hit to load the bases with one out, Richard struck out Derrick Mahlum and Clouse was caught too far off second base after a pitch by catcher Phelps, who threw down to second forcing Alex Galgano to break for home plate where he was thrown out to end the threat.
In the second Richard ran into more trouble. With two outs and a runner on first, Richard walked Murphy shortstop and Oregon State-commit Trever Morrison. Casey Dawes, who was 2-for-3 with an RBI, then smacked a single down the right-field line to score Tyler Klaudt, making it 2-0 after two innings.
The Wildcats tacked another run on in the third inning when Clouse, who finished 2-for-3 with a pair of singles, an RBI and a run scored, led off the inning with his second hit and Camden Buchanan reached on his second walk of the game. Mahlum moved both runners over with a sacrifice bunt and Philip Michael Feliciano hit a towering fly ball to center field in the ensuing at-bat to score Clouse from third on a sacrifice fly to give the Wildcats their third run in three innings. A line drive fly out to left field by Tyler Klaudt ended the inning.
Shenton was 2-for-3 with a pair of singles to lead Bellingham, which now must focus on Lake Washington.
"Lake Washingotn looks like great team," Farrell said. "They wouldn't be here if they weren't. We've got to get back to it on Monday. Really, it boils down to ourselves and playing good baseball. Once we play good Red Raiders baseball, the scoreboard will take care of itself."
ARCHBISHOP MURPHY 3, BELLINGHAM 0
Bellingham 000 000 x - 0 3 1
Arch. Murphy 111 000 x - 3 8 0
WP:Mahlum. LP:Matt Richard. Highlights: Bellignham: Austin Shenton 2-3.