BLAINE - When Lynden Christian needed a big hit, the Lyncs couldn't deliver until it was much too late.
Twice during the middle innings, LC found itself with the bases loaded and one out against Coupeville pitcher CJ Smith. Both times the Wolves escaped with no damage done.
"We did not hit the ball well in big situations today," Lynden Christian coach Desi Luna said. "That was kind of the name of the game. When you leave 11 people on base, you're not going to win many ball games. Eleven through seven, that's not good."
The Lyncs finally capitalized on their third bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the seventh, but a two-run single by Jake Poag wasn't enough as the Northwest District's No.1 seed suffered a 5-2 loss to No. 5 seed Coupeville during the semifinal round of the Class 1A District Tournament on a sunny Friday, May 9, at Pipeline Fields in Blaine.
A win would have advanced Lynden Christian to the district title game and locked up a tri-district tournament berth. Luna stressed how badly his club wanted a win Friday, but the loss gives the Lyncs a third chance to play Nooksack Valley. The two league opponents will play a loser-out, winner-advance game at noon Saturday, May 10, at Meridian High School.
Poag's two-out single in the seventh prevented a shutout, and Alex Vander Velden matched Poag's two-hit outing by going 2 for 2 with a walk. Rarely used but highly-coveted pitcher Jamie Heystek took the loss, but Luna said his senior pitched well enough to win.
Heystek went the distance, giving up four earned runs on eight hits. He recorded five strikeouts - all of which occurred during the final three innings - walked one and hit two batters.
Heystek also had to overcome a bothersome cut he sustained at school Friday. The minor injury was on the backside of a finger on his throwing hand
"He gets stronger as the game goes on," Luna said. "That's kind of his MO. He competed. He really did. ... That's a very good hitting team. It seems like he just got a little upset and started throwing."
The start was only Heystek's third of the season. Luna said a childhood injury that required pins to be inserted into his arm only allows Heystek to throw at most once every two weeks.
After a throwing error gave Coupeville a 1-0 lead in the second, Wolves catcher Jake Tumblin hit a home run over the left-field wall to push Coupeville's lead to 2-0. A passed ball allowed the Wolves to extend their lead to 3-0 later in the inning.
Lynden Christian struggled to produce a run despite a myriad of chances.
LC's first opportunity came with the bases loaded in the bottom of the third and one out. Austin Vander Haak got the first chance to break through, but he popped out to Coupeville's first baseman. Poag followed with a strikeout on a 3-2 count.
The Lyncs again had the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth with one out, trailing 4-0, but lined out into a 4-3 double play to end the threat.
"Sometimes kids step up, and sometimes they don't," Luna said. Today we just did not play well under pressure."
Coupeville extended its lead to 5-0 before Lynden Christian put together a solid rally in the bottom of the seventh and even got the tying run to the plate with two outs. Vander Velden and Marc Meenderink sandwiched base hits around a Drake Likkel walk, and Poag scored both Vander Velden and Meenderink with a single to shallow right-center.
Poag's hit knocked Smith out of the game, and Coupeville's Ben Etzell earned the save by getting Grant Wolffis to ground out to second for the final out.
As Lynden Christian ended its postgame talk with Luna, the team collectively yelled "Beat Nooksack." Luna said his club has been anxious to get another chance to play the Pioneers since it lost to Nooksack Valley 11-1 on May 5. The Lyncs also suffered a 6-2 preseason loss to the Pioneers.
"The last time we played them, they handed it to us a little bit, and the guys were pretty excited that we get to see them again tomorrow," Luna said.
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
COUPEVILLE 5, LYNDEN CHRISTIAN 2
Coupeville 012 100 1 - 5 8 5
Lynden Christian 000 000 2 - 2 8 2
WP: CJ Smith. LP: Jamie Heystek. Highlights: LC - Alex Vander Velden 2-2, BB, R; Jake Poag 2-4, 2 RBI.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.