LAUREL - For the first half of the year, Meridian senior Kyle Linderman felt out of place.
After starting in right field for much of his sophomore and junior seasons, Linderman was shifted to third base this spring, and the position just never quite took.
He struggled a bit, and not only at the hot corner - he carried it with him when he was at the plate.
"Kyle struggled early - he had two hits through our first 12, 13 games," Meridian coach Steve Slesk said. "Now he's hitting like he can. He's getting confident. We put him back in right field, and he's feeling comfortable there."
Linderman helped the Trojans make Nooksack Valley feel quite uncomfortable Saturday, May 10, in the third-place game of the Class 1A Northwest District Tournament, as he went 3 for 3 with a walk and scored two runs in an 11-6 Meridian win.
Earlier in the day, Meridian beat Friday Harbor 3-1 at Blaine's Pipeline Fields to stay alive and secure a trip to the Class 1A Tri-District Tournament.
As the No. 3 seed out of the district, the Trojans (11-12) will host the District 3 No. 3 seed Thursday, May 15, in an elimination game scheduled for 4 p.m.
"We played solid defense again, which is what we've been doing the last week or so," Slesk said. "We turned the corner, really. It's been our bugaboo all year - our defense. Our pitching is getting healthy. Right now, I really like our chances with the way our pitching staff is."
The Trojans got a strong pitching performance from David Anderson in the win over Friday Harbor, as he scattered six hits and did not allow a walk in an efficient 70-pitch, one-unearned-run outing.
Meridian jumped on top early in the game, scoring runs on an error and Jake Plagerman's RBI to take a 2-0 lead in the first and adding another run in the third on a passed ball.
"We've been swinging a hot bat recently, it seems," Linderman said. "Against Friday Harbor in the first game, we were swinging it. We came into this (third-place) game, and we were swinging it, too. We've had a good week at the plate."
And Linderman certainly was a big part of that against Nooksack Valley, and he credits the position switch back to the outfield as part of the reason why.
"I feel a lot more comfortable in the outfield. ... I feel a lot more relaxed at the plate," he said. "There aren't as many stresses out there in the outfield, to me anyways."
Early on, it looked like there weren't going to be any stresses for the Trojans in the third-place game. A double steal allowed Josh Hosick to score the first run of the game in the first, before Anderson scored on Tanner Tutterrow's perfect sacrifice bunt to make it 2-0.
Meridian tacked on four more runs in the second, thanks in large part to four of the Pioneers' seven errors in the game, before making it 9-0 in the bottom of the fourth, thanks to Plagerman's two-run single and an RBI basehit from Dakota Jones.
But in the top of the fifth, Nooksack Valley strung together five straight hits to trim Meridian's once robust lead to just three runs.
Trojans starter Devyn Holmes, who was cruising after allowing three straight walks in the first, suddenly lost his feel for the strike zone.
"Devyn is only a sophomore, and this was only his third start," Slesk said. "He's going to be a really, really good one. He just started to struggle a little bit there and fell behind, and that started to hurt him a little bit."
Plagerman came on to pick up the save, and Brady Moore drove in two more runs in the bottom of the sixth, giving him a team-high three for the game and the Trojans a little more breathing room.
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
MERIDIAN 3, FRIDAY HARBOR 1
Meridian 201 000 0 - 3 8 2
Friday Harbor 000 001 0 - 1 6 1
WP: David Anderson (3-4). LP: Not available. Highlights: Meridian Josh Hosick 3-4, David Anderson 1-2, Tanner Tutterrow 1-2, Jake Plagerman 1-3, RBI; Dakota Jones 1-3, Jamison Hodge 1-3.
MERIDIAN 11, NOOKSACK VALLEY 5
Nooksack Valley 000 060 0 -6 6 7
Meridian 240 202 x - 11 10 1
WP: Devyn Holmes. LP: Parker Schram. Highlights: Nooksack Valley: Cole Mattice 2-4, Brady Wood 1-3, R, 2 RBI, Curtis Handy 1-3, R, RBI; Dalton Biehle 1-2, R, RBI. Meridian: Kyle Linderman 3-3, 2 R; Brady Moore 1-4, R, 3 RBI, SB; Tanner Tutterrow 1-3, 2 RBI, Jake Plagerman 1-4, R, 2 RBI.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.