LYNDEN - Coach Desi Luna recalled that "surprised wasn't really the word" when he saw senior Grant Wolffis and junior Jordan Jansen turn out for baseball for the first time at Lynden Christian.
"Excited, now that would be the word," Luna said with a grin, recalling that day two months ago.
Luna was more excited than ever after the two high school rookies combined to pitch the Lyncs past Mount Baker 3-2 in the opening round of the Class 1A Northwest District Tournament on Tuesday, May 6, at LC.
But "relieved" was also the word of the day for Luna, since the Lyncs (8-13) survived what the veteran coach called an outstanding pitching effort by senior Seth Bass for the winless Mountaineers (0-19-1).
"That team is a lot better (than Baker's winless record indicates)," said Luna. "This was the third time we've played them, and we've had to win all three in the last inning."
LC shortstop Jamie Heystek laced a fence-rattling triple to right field on a full-count fastball to open the seventh with the game tied 2-2. After Baker coach Quinn LeSage used the logical tactic and ordered two intentional walks to set up a play at home, cleanup hitter Josh Heutink walked to score Heystek.
The Lyncs need one more tournament win to clinch a spot at Tri-District. LC next meets Coupeville on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at Blaine's Pipeline Fields. Baker will play a loser-out game the same day at 2 p.m. against Meridian at Pipeline.
Wolffis, who played golf his first three springs at LC, struck out four of the first 10 Baker batters before the Mountaineers began to look anything like a team seeking its first win.
Baker pulled within 2-1 in the fourth on Cody Larson's long two-out double to left, a walk and Chad Cohn's line single. The Mounties loaded the bases in the fifth, but Wolffis - who became accustomed to tight spots in basketball - got a strikeout and a groundout to end the threat.
Wolffis finally needed help in the sixth, when Jansen relieved him with two runners on and two out. Jansen threw three balls to Baker three-sport standout Andrew Zender, then found the strike zone and escaped when he threw a low fastball for a swinging strike three.
In the seventh, however, Bass stroked his third consecutive hit and LeSage then called for bunts from his No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters. The coach's players executed beautifully - a bunt single by Colton Ranson, a sacrifice by Jacob Marr and a bunt single on a squeeze by Larson - to tie the entertaining struggle 2-2.
Jansen, though, followed with a strikeout for the second out. Jansen then saw catcher Josh Hornstra quickly retrieve what could have been a wild pitch. Hornstra threw a strike to Jansen and Ranson was out at home, ending the inning.
"Josh made a great throw, a great play," said Jansen, who has pitched as both a starter and reliever and earned his second win.
"I gave up baseball after sixth grade (in favor of football and dirt biking) but I watched a few games last season and decided to come out," Jansen said. "I do a lot of dirt biking, but I'd say it's about 90 percent that I'll come out again next year. The coaches always tell me to relax, and that's what I did today."
Likewise, Wolffis said he "missed the game too much, because it used to be my favorite sport." He said he just couldn't stay away his senior year.
"You could see on day one that Grant was a starting-caliber infielder," said Luna, who has been delighted to see Heystek, also a solid pitcher, get plenty of mound support from Wolffis with the erstwhile golfer's development as a right-handed starter.
Wolffis scored LC's first run after he singled to open the second. He alertly advanced to third on his own call after Hornstra's sacrifice bunt and scored on an error on the same play. LC's second run developed when Drake Likkel raced home when Austin Vander Haak singled and became engaged in a rundown in the third.
Bass, who limited the Lyncs to four hits and struck out seven, impressed Luna.
"I thought he was just great. He's really sneaky," Luna said. "You don't see the ball until it's real late."
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN 3, MOUNT BAKER 2
Mount Baker 000 100 1 - 2 8 3
Lynden Christian 011 000 1 - 3 4 1
WP: Jordan Jansen. LP: Seth Bass. Highlights: Mount Baker: Seth Bass 3-4, R; Colton Ranson 1-3; Cody Larson 2-4, 2B, R, RBI; Carsen Schmidt 1-3; Chad Cohn 1-3, RBI. LC: Jamie Heystek 1-4, 3B, R; Drake Likkel R, SB; Josh Heutink RBI; Austin Vander Haak 1-3; Grant Wolffis 1-3, R; Josh Hornstra 1-2.