BELLINGHAM - Squalicum senior Landon Tripp has no trouble counting victories over Bellingham or rating his best plays in center field.
Neither does Storm coach John Inge, as both showed after Squalicum's hit-packed 12-7 non-league win over the Red Raiders on Monday, March 31.
"My only other win (over Bellingham) was in my sophomore year," said Tripp, who lined three singles in four at-bats, including a pair of late-inning RBI hits, on the Bellingham diamond even though it was Squalicum's home game.
"That was about my fifth-best play," said Tripp, a devoted fourth-year starter with college baseball aspirations. He made an eye-opening diving catch in center field to steal a hit from Bellingham shortstop Brad Johnson in a case of grand larceny.
Inge begged to disagree on Tripp's assessment with a wide grin.
"Oh no it's not," the coach told Tripp, who moved to center as a sophomore after starting in left as a freshman. "Maybe you're counting summer games, but that has to be in your top three plays for the high school."
Tripp just smiled, since he was pleased to make such major contributions after being caught off third in the first inning following Ernie Yake's bunt single and Ben Johnson's attempted sacrifice.
"That was my fault. I didn't read the angle of Ben's bunt, but I did force them to tag me at home so our other two runners could move up. I've always been an aggressive baserunner," said Tripp, who has genuine reason to believe he and Johnson - Squalicum's lone seniors - will finally get to play at district.
"I really see us battling at district," said Tripp, who hit better than .300 his first three seasons. He was grateful to see Josh Holcomb, Kyle Little and Tim Lann follow with run-scoring singles, all solid shots, after Tripp was tagged out.
"This was a big win for us," said Inge, who is in his fourth season. "It was a good win (with 13 hits) over a quality team. Bellingham (3-3) is always just so darned tough to beat. Bellingham is just relentless. I was nervous after we led 11-2 (in the fifth), when we couldn't get that last run to close it out early (on the 10-run rule)."
All nine starting batters for the Storm (3-2) had either hits, runs or RBIs. Sophomore shortstop Ernie Yake looked mature for his years, making several solid plays and going 2 for 3 with an RBI double in the fifth, while junior second baseman Kyle Little went 2 for 4 with a run-scoring single and a double. Cleanup batter Holcomb went 2 for 4 with a pair of RBI hits and fellow junior Lann also went 2 for 4, giving the Storm five players with multiple hits.
Junior David Stealy - who is making a name for himself after seeing his name misspelled on the roster - hit a two-run single to cap a four-run fourth-inning, then earned a memorable save for winning pitcher Christian Jorgenson, who pitched generally well despite control trouble over the first four innings.
Bellingham standout Oscar White -one of the most feared power hitters in the Northwest Conference - swung at a nasty, low, two-strike breaking ball from Stealy to end the game with the bases loaded. Stealy gave up a run-scoring infield single by Ryan Fox, setting up the nerve-rattling finish in relief of sophomore middle reliever Ben Wolters, a transfer from Ferndale.
"I thought Christian's curve was fantastic. He was freezing some of their hitters," Lann said of Jorgenson, who struck out four of Bellingham's first six hitters and escaped from a no-out, bases-loaded situation by coaxing a grounder and two fly balls to end the fourth.
"Ernie's a beast," Jorgenson said of Yake, who started as a freshman. ""That kid has range."
Lann made a good point about Squalicum's youth.
"The last two years, we've struggled with our young teams (through losing seasons), but we're experienced now even though we're still young," Lann said.
Jorgenson (1-0), a third-year starting pitcher, said he was "absolutely thrilled" to see Tripp's catch to lead off the third, calling the catch a big lift for him.
"I now know I need to rely on our defense, to focus on throwing strikes and letting our fielders make the plays," said Jorgenson, who struck out four but walked six and hit one batter.
Bellingham junior Nate Pearsall hit a two-run single in the sixth to throw a scare into the Storm. Bellingham third baseman Charlie Carmichael singled home the first run of a four-run sixth following a leadoff double by sophomore Jashawn Dorsey.
Carmichael's diving stop and throw at third base in the third deprived Ben Johnson of a hit.
Bellingham coach David Farrell acknowledged both teams displayed potential.
"Squalicum has a lot of talented young kids," the fourth-year Red Raiders coach said. "And we have a smart group of kids, with only three seniors. But we have good senior leadership and our kids have a relentless style."
Bellingham left fielder Bobby Cooke made his first start on the mound and took the loss. After giving up five hits and three runs in the first inning, however, he displayed fortitude and poise by retiring six consecutive hitters in the next two innings.
SQUALICUM 12, BELLINGHAM 7
Bellingham 000 204 1 - 7 7 3
Squalicum 300 531 x - 12 13 1
WP: Christian Jorgenson (1-0). LP: Bobby Cooke (0-1). Highlights: Squalicum: Landon Tripp 3-4, 2 runs, 2 RBI; Ernie Yake 2-3, 2B, 2 runs, RBI; Josh Holcomb 2-4, 2 RBI; Kyle Little 2-4, 2B, RBI; Tim Lann 2-4, RBI; David Stealy 1-3, 2 runs, 2 RBI; Carter Nickelson 1-3. Bellingham: Bobby Cooke 1-3, RBI; Ryan Fox 2-4, RBI; Oscar White 1-2, 3 BB; Nate Pearsall 1-2, 2 RBI; Alex Richard RBI; Jashawn Dorsey 1-2, 2B, 2 runs, RBI; Charlie Carmichael 1-3, RBI.