BURLINGTON - Sehome coach Gary Hatch firmly believes his young baseball club's hitting will come around, but with pitching performances such as the one Mariners junior Jake Albert provided against Burlington-Edison, scoring urgency can wait.
Albert, who is slated as a complement to starters Josh Zavisubin and Drew Lomsdalen, proved he'll be another strong chess piece Hatch can use when the Northwest Conference season rolls around next week.
Albert hit his spots all game, kept the Tigers off balance with his breaking ball and overcame minor adversities to throw a complete game one-hitter to help Sehome earn a 1-0 win Tuesday, April 1, at Burlington-Edison High.
The win marked Sehome's fifth straight after opening the season 0-3.
"His breaking ball has been really good, but today it was exceptionally good," Hatch said. "They were swinging through a lot of pitches, and that was definitely his best outing."
Albert struck out seven, stayed walk-free and didn't give up a hit after Burlington-Edison's No. 2 batter Mason Schwetz drilled a single into center field during the bottom half of the first inning.
The Mariners celebrated with Albert after Burlington-Edison's Trey Lopez grounded out to end the game, but the real seal of approval came in right field during Hatch's postgame address.
Before the team broke away, they encircled Albert, had him remove his shoes, picked him up and lofted him in the air before catching him on the descent.
"It's the Eskimo toss," Albert explained. "If someone does something special, coach will have everyone toss him in the air. That's been tradition since who knows how long."
It was Albert's first career Eskimo toss, and undoubtedly it was well earned.
Both Albert and Hatch praised catcher and clean-up batter Owen Wright for his work behind the plate. Hatch said he called a strong game. He also threw out three Burlington-Edison baserunners attempting to steal bases. None arguably was more important than Wright's laser throw to catch Burlington-Edison's Hunter Jacobson trying to steal second with one out in the bottom of the seventh.
"He's just getting more confident all the time," Hatch said of Wright. "He's a solid backstop back there. Today, I just really saw tremendous improvement in the way he releases the ball and gets rids of it."
The Tigers, who've lately been struggling to produce, didn't reach third base once. Wright was a big part of it, as was Albert's ability to put defensive errors behind him.
Wright first caught the Tigers' Derek Cherryholmes trying to steal third after Sehome's Davis Hampton dropped an infield pop up to put Burlington's infielder on base in the third. In the fourth inning, Wright threw out Schwetz at third after he got on base following an errant throw by Mariners shortstop Lomsdalen.
Albert's poise through the errors was impressive, Hatch said.
"The only thing I can tell you is that it has to be in his DNA," said Hatch of Albert's ability to handle pressure, "because his brother is like that, his sisters were like that. They just have that ability. They just don't let things bother them."
The Mariners didn't need much offensive production with Albert on the mound, but Sehome's bottom half of the order, paired with Zavisubin, provided the only run in the top of the fifth.
Sehome's Dylan Harper led off the inning with an infield single before advancing to second on a passed ball. Gage Bull followed with a bunt and reached first after Burlington-Edison pitcher Drew Larson unsuccessfully tried to throw Harper out at third.
Following a strikeout and a walk, Zavisubin hit a deep enough fly ball to center to score Harper from third, giving Sehome the only run it needed.
The Mariners again showed their ability to win close games. Each of Sehome's past three victories has been by three runs or less.
"It's just pitching and defense," Albert said. "That's what's going to win us most of our games. Our hitting, like I said we're young. The more pitches we see, the more that will start coming."
Larson also threw a strong game, going the distance and giving up only three hits. He also struck out eight and walked only two batters.
Lomsdalen and Bull had Sehome's two other hits. Bull's came in the second on an infield single, and Lomsdalen hit a single back up the middle in the top of the fourth.
The Mariners open conference play next with a game against Anacortes at 4 p.m. Monday, April 7, at Sehome High.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
SEHOME 1, BURLINGTON-EDISON 0
Sehome 000 010 0 - 1 3 2
Burlington-Ed. 000 000 0 - 0 1 1
WP: Jake Albert (2-0). LP: Drew Larson. Highlights: BE - Mason Schwetz 1-3. Seh - Josh Zavisubin 0-2, sac fly, RBI; Drew Lomsdalen 1-2, BB, SB; Gage Bull 1-2, 2 SB.
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.