BELLINGHAM - One of the most accomplished high school senior classes Whatcom County has ever produced on and off the field of play received one final standing ovation from a packed house. Only problem, it wasn't the cheers they were looking for.
Two state championships in football, one in basketball, a runner-up finish in baseball and another third-place trophy in basketball definitely merit a round of appreciation.
But what these seniors really wanted was one more week of practice - one more week together - and one last shot at another title.
The Archbishop Murphy baseball team dashed those hopes by scoring two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning after Lynden had let its opportunity to take control of the Bellingham Regional final of the Class 2A State Tournament slip away in the top half of the sixth on a sunny Sunday afternoon, May 19, at Joe Martin Field, and the Wildcats went on to end the Lions' season with a 3-1 loss.
"I think the biggest thing is they're not going to be at the next practice," a choked-up Lynden coach Cory White said. "That's what's tough. Good kids. ... We're closing a chapter of a pretty lengthy book that's a pretty good book. They've given our community a gift the last few years."
Lynden (22-3) reached the regional final with a 7-4 win over Lindbergh earlier Sunday, despite giving up four runs in the bottom of the seventh to send the game to extra innings. The bottom half of the Lions' lineup spurred a three-run rally in the top of the eighth to set up the showdown with Archbishop Murphy.
In that regional final, Lynden stranded only three runners, but two of them were huge.
With the score tied 1-1 after Matt Meyer belted a solo home run in the top of the fifth for Lynden's first hit of the game, Luke Christianson beat out an infield single on a grounder deep into the hole with one out in the sixth, and Josh Kraght followed with a double to left-center field to give the Lions runners on second and third with one out.
But Wildcats starter Alexander Clouse, who limited Lynden to three base hits and one walk, left them standing there, when he struck out Zach Vis and Tanner Olson.
"We looked at trying to get a safety squeeze down, and gave it a shot one play," White said. "Z's been swinging a good bat. With the infield drawn in, we though it really increased our chances to get the ball through there. ... The grass is so long, if we could get it through we know we can score two. That's the way it is. Looking back, we'd probably do the same thing."
In the bottom half of the inning, Archbishop Murphy got its chance to unknot the score, and the Wildcats pounced.
Camden Buchanan drew a leadoff walk and then stole second, even though the throw beat him there when Tanner Olson had the ball pop out of his glove as he raised it up. Buchanan ended up scoring on an error on a grounder hit by Phillip Michael Feliciano.
Feliciano also came home to score on pinch-hitter Ryan Dorney's flare that snuck just inside the left-field line to make it 3-1.
"You look at that little flare down the left-field line and that play at second base, if we hang on to that thing, (those plays) possibly change the outcome of the game," White said. "But that's the game, and I thought our kids battled."
And you wouldn't expect anything less from this group of seniors.
In the first game, Lynden appeared to be cruising after jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the first three innings, but Lindberg used five hits and a walk to stage a four-run rally to send the game to extra innings.
"I think a team giving up four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning easily could collapse," White said. "I think there could be a little panic in the dugout, panic on the field and maybe some finger pointing. With this crew, they've been through so many different situations on the football field, basketball court and baseball diamond, I think their composure is what held us on to win this thing today. That was a huge thing for us in the bottom of the seventh was the experience of the team."
With ace Olson on the mound, Lynden looked like it would cruise to an win, when Olson singled in Christianson and Vis in the top of the first, Ryan Mouat singled and scored on a balk in the second, and Kraght's hustle play on a fly ball created a Lindbergh error and allowed him to score for a 4-0 lead after three.
Though Olson wasn't as dominant as he has been - he allowed 12 hits and three walks, while striking out nine - he kept the Eagles off the scoreboard until a leadoff bunt single by Shawn Harris and back-to-back singles by Cameron Callen and Derrick Holt got Lindbergh its first run in the seventh. A groundout brought home Lindbergh's second run, before Matthew Stuart's double and Taylor Scarvie's single tied the game.
Lynden responded when No. 6 hitter Mouat drew a leadoff walk. Jordan Wittenberg sacrificed him to second, before Peter Bovenkamp and pinch-hitter Aleksei Poventud drew two more walks to load the bases and get Lynden back to the top of its order.
"(Six) through nine have been huge for us all year," White said. "Ryan Mouat's been doing a heck of a job. They're getting on base. They're scoring runs themselves. But then again, any time you turn the lineup over, you're getting guys up to bat and more plate appearances, which is what we want to have."
Christianson drew another walk to force in the go-ahead run, before Poventud scored on an error following Kraght's fielder's choice ground out. Vis brought home the final run of the game with his single through the left side of Lindbergh's infield.
Olson, who threw 123 pitches in the game, allowed a pair of singles in the bottom of the eighth, but struck out Tyler Gould to end the game and send Lynden to a regional final for the second straight year.
While Sunday marked the final time the nine seniors listed on Lynden's state roster will play together, it won't be the last time they'll be heard from. Kraght, Meyer and Vis have all signed college football scholarships to play for Portland State, Washington State and Montana, respectively, while Christianson and Olson have signed to play baseball together at Lower Columbia College.
"What speaks highly for them is I saw people from Burlington here," White said. "I saw people from Bellingham, people from Sehome. I saw people from Blaine and Ferndale. They were all pulling for us. I think so many times you don't see that. Today, they were cheering for a bunch of good kids, and they respected that."
LYNDEN 7, LINDBERGH 4 (8)
Lynden 211 000 03 - 7 11 2
Lindbergh 000 000 40 - 4 12 3
WP: Tanner Olson (10-0). LP: Enrique Martinez. Highlights: Lynden: Luke Christianson 2-4, 2 R, RBI, 2B; Josh Kraght 2-4, R, 2B, SB; Zach Vis 2-5, R, RBI, SB; Tanner Olson 1-5, 2 RBI; Ryan Mouat 2-3, 2 R; Peter Bovenkamp 1-3, Lucas Peterson 1-2, SB.
ARCHBISHOP MURPHY 3, LYNDEN 1
Lynden 000 010 0 - 1 3 1
ATM 100 001 x - 3 6 0
WP: Alexander Clouse. LP: Zach Vis. Highlights: Lynden: Luke Christianson 1-3; Josh Kraght 1-2, 2B; Matt Meyer 1-3, HR, R, RBI.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.