LAUREL - Nooksack Valley junior Dalton Biehle really didn't need to look at a scouting report before he took the mound against Lynden Christian in an elimination game in the Class 1A Northwest District Tournament on Saturday, May 10. It was only one year ago Biehle was in the Lyncs' dugout.
"I knew where to throw 'em - where to locate it, where their strengths and weaknesses are and if they like curveballs or not," Biehle said. "It helped a lot."
Especially when Biehle found himself in trouble against his former team and the Pioneers clinging to a one-run lead in the bottom of the sixth inning with the bases loaded and two outs. Biehle had just allowed back-to-back singles and a walk to the bottom of the LC order, bringing a visit from coach Scott Gelwicks before he was to face leadoff hitter Jamie Heystek.
"That's the one guy you do not want up - he's the best hitter on that team," Biehle said.
But it took Biehle only one pitch to induce Heystek into an inning-ending groundout to first baseman Cole Mattice, and the Pioneers held on for a 4-2 victory.
"That was a position I needed to step up, and my first baseman did a really good job making a nice pick on a grounder," Biehle said. "That was a hard grounder, and he did it for us."
By making the play, Mattice helped secure a trip to the Class 1A Tri-District Tournament.
The Pioneers (11-12) later dropped the third-place game 11-6 to Meridian and will enter as the fourth seed, meaning they'll host the District 3 No. 4 seed in a game scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 13. If Nooksack wins that game, it would then travel to face Overlake on Thursday, May 15, for a second elimination game.
But just qualifying for tri-districts is a big accomplishment for a program that won only two games in 2011 and four in 2012.
"I started my freshman year in varsity, and we've always been done after the first round (in the district tournament)," catcher Eben Rossmiller said. "It's overwhelming to get to go through to the next round - having it be the next round and being my senior year and being the only senior on the team."
Rossmiller had a big hand in getting the team through to the next level of postseason play, as his two-out, first-inning double plated Tanner Myhre and Curtis Handy to give the Pioneers a quick 2-0 lead.
"I was just waiting for my pitch, which Grant (Wolffis) gave it to me," Rossmiller said. "I threw it down, just laid the bat on it, and it happened to go over the left fielder's head. I was like, 'Oh yeah, I'm going for two, because it was over his head.'"
Rossmiller ended up scampering home on a pair of wild pitches to give Nooksack a 3-0 lead.
Thanks in part to his first-hand scouting report and what turned out to be a gutsy performance, Biehle was able to make that lead stand.
Biehle notched his season-high 10th strikeout of the game for the final out on his 135th pitch of the day. Although he admitted his left arm was "a little sore," he had to be quite pleased with how he battled.
"He was good enough to win," LC coach Desi Luna said. "That's all we ask our kids to do is be good enough to win. We had Biehle last year, so we know a lot about him. That's the thing he always does is fights."
Josh Hornstra and Wolffis, who each went 2 for 3, drove in runs in the fourth and sixth innings, respectively, to pull the Lyncs back within one run, but thanks to the clutch defensive play by Biehle and Mattice, that was as close as LC would get.
"(Making it to tri-district) was one of our goals when we started last year," Gelwicks said. "To get there this year is great. We're young, so to get to that next step is really important."
Lynden Christian, which entered as the top seed in the district tournament, saw its season come to a close with an 8-15 record.
"We really came on late this year," Luna said. "We had a really good senior group this year, and it's going to be tough to see that bunch go."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
NOOKSACK VALLEY 4, LYNDEN CHRISTIAN 2
Nooksack 300 000 1 - 4 4 1
LC 000 101 0 - 2 5 1
WP: Dalton Biehle. LP: Grant Wolffis. Highlights: Nooksack Valley: Eben Rossmiller 1-3, 2 RBI, 2B; Dalton Biehle 1-3, 2B, SB; Tanner Myhre 1-4, R, SB; Ryan Gelwicks 1-4. Lynden Christian: Alex Vander Velden 1-4, Grant Wolffis 2-3, RBI; Josh Hornstra 2-3, RBI.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.