BELLINGHAM - It wasn't so long ago that John Inge, before he joined the Storm baseball coaching staff and became head coach, witnessed Squalicum endure some rough years.
In the late 2000s, Inge's son played JV as a freshman and the varsity team went 0-20. The club won two games the next season.
But with what Squalicum has accomplished this season, using its deep pitching staff combined with solid defense and strong hitting, the Storm's dark days seem like much more of a distant memory.
Squalicum exercised its patience at the plate, took advantage of Lynden Christian starting pitcher Austin Vander Haak's command problems and rolled to a 12-1 Northwest Conference win in five innings to claim at least a share of the league title on a sunny Thursday, May 1, at Squalicum High School.
"When I was JV coach, we had some dang good players," Inge explained, "but we were so accustomed to losing. That is what we had to change, 'What is going to happen that is going to ruin this.' Now we've seen it happen for us."
The Storm ran its win streak to eight straight Thursday and relied on starting pitcher Harper Moore's arm and Vander Haak's inaccuracy to tact on another victory.
"He is the ultra competitor," Inge said of Moore, who pushed his record to 3-1. "He didn't have his best stuff. I thought he had OK stuff. He works in and out really well, and he changed speeds a couple times. He's getting a lot better."
Moore threw all five innings, gave up three hits, struck out two, walked two and the only run he surrendered was unearned.
Squalicum leads the NWC in runs scored per game and David Stealy, Christian Jorgenson, Ben Wolters and Moore have starred on the mound. The defense has been so solid at one point Squalicum went seven games straight without committing an error, so when the Storm score early, the game usually doesn't end well for its opponent.
That was the case for Lynden Christian.
"This season anytime we've been able to score a bunch of runs in the first couple innings, we've usually been able to take care of teams later in the game," said third baseman Tim Lann, who went 2 for 3 with two RBI.
After Vander Haak pitched a one-two-three first inning, 14 Storm hitters came to the plate during a 10-run second.
Squalicum was the recipient of four walks, two hit batsmen and three errors, which combined with hits from Lann, Jorgenson and Ernie Yake accounted for double-digit runs.
"Good offensive day, good offensive approach," Inge said. "We got some clutch hits. Ernie Yake a terrific game at bat and in the field today."
Lann started the scoring with an RBI single, Jorgenson pushed Squalicum's lead to 3-0 with a two-RBI single to right-center and LC unraveled after that.
The Lyncs cut Squalicum's lead to 10-1 in the third with an RBI from Alex Vander Velden, but the Storm re-entered the 10-run threshold with two runs in the bottom half of the fourth inning.
The win sets up a chance for Squalicum (14-3-1, 10-1 NWC) to win the conference outright during its regular season finale against Anacortes (14-3, 8-2 NWC) as long as the Seahawks beat Mount Baker on Friday, May 2. The Squalicum-Anacortes game is scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday, May 5, at Anacortes.
"We are all super pumped," Lann said. "It's a huge game. They got us last time, very solid team, super talented. We're going to give them a good game and hopefully get them this time."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
SQUALICUM 12, LYNDEN CHRISTIAN 1 (5)
Lynden Chr. 001 00 - 1 3 5
Squalicum 0(10)0 2x - 12 6 2
WP: Harper Moore (3-1). LP: Austin Vander Haak (2-4). Highlights: Sq - Tim Lann 2-3, 2 R, 2 RBI; Kyle Little 1-2, 2B, 3 R, BB; Christian Johnson 1-2, R, 2 RBI. LC - Alex Vander Velden 1-3, RBI; Josh Hornstra 1-2; Jake Poag 1-2
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.