The Meridian baseball team entered Saturday, May 17, needing just one win in two games in the Class 1A Tri-District Tournament to earn a berth to state for a fifth straight year.
Unfortunately for the Trojans, those were only two of the opportunities they couldn't cash in Saturday.
Meridian left a total of 17 runners on base in the two games, including 10 stranded in scoring position, as it saw its season come to a close.
Charles Wright/Life Christian beat the Trojans 3-1 in a winner-to-state game at Meridian High School, before Overlake ended Meridian's hopes with a 2-0 victory in the tri-district fifth-place game at Sehome High School.
"Baseball is about getting that clutch hit, especially during playoff time," Meridian coach Steve Slesk said. "Down the stretch, you're going to have tight games and need those clutch hits, and we didn't get one all day. We got our chances in both games, especially in that first game. We left the bases loaded a couple of times."
The Trojans (12-14) stranded three in the fifth inning of both games, and the day ended with Jamison Hodge and Josh Hosick standing at third and second base, respectively, in the bottom of the seventh against Overlake.
"It wasn't a lack of effort; we just couldn't get that clutch hit," Slesk said.
Clutch hitting wasn't all that cost Meridian, though.
They also missed an opportunity to get out of the second inning of the first game on a groundball that should have been the third out in an inning that saw Tanner Tutterrow allow a leadoff single and a four-pitch walk before settling down to retire the next two batters on strikeouts. The Athletics capitalized to score a pair of runs on the play, and tacked on another later in the inning.
"That was unfortunate," Slesk said. "We didn't make a play. Otherwise, they don't score. It's a dandy 1-0 game or something like that. We had our chances in that game to add on to our one run."
In fact, all five runs Meridian allowed Saturday were unearned, as Tutterrow, reliever Devyn Holmes and second-game starter David Anderson all pitched well, limiting the Athletics to two hits and six walks and the Owls to four hits and a walk in the second game.
But the one error in the first game and three in the second proved too much to overcome.
"It's been our bugaboo all year long," Slesk said. "It's frustrating for everybody in there. We have to shore things up defensively, for sure."
After allowing the Athletics to get on the board in the first game, the Trojans immediately responded when Hodge reached base and scored on a pair of errors to make it 3-1.
But that inning could have been much more, as the Trojans left a pair of runners on following back-to-back walks. The fourth ended in a double-play, and a pop-out in foul territory left the bases loaded in the fifth.
Meridian got back-to-back one-out singles from Dakota Jones and Kyle Linderman in the sixth, but Taylor Roelofs, who has signed to play for Whitworth College next year, struck out the next two batters to end that threat.
"I really think it was more us," Slesk said. "I think we faced several pitchers better than him this year and have hit better pitches than that. It was maybe a little trying too hard in our case today. We didn't swing the bats great today, like we have the last week and a half. We've really been squaring balls up."
Unfortunately they carried those struggles with them on the short drive south to face Overlake.
The game was scoreless entering the fifth, until the Owls' No. 9 hitter, Tyler Wilcox, drove in a run with a one-out single into left field, and a second run scored on an error on the play.
Meridian attempted to answer when back-to-back hits by Hosick and Anderson loaded the bases, but a ground-out ended the threat.
The Trojans got a pair of runners into scoring position in the seventh, but the game ended with another pop-out just into foul territory down the first-base line.
"We probably played our best ball that last week and half, and then today we just can't get a clutch hit," Slesk said. "We had our spots."
Despite Saturday's frustrating results, Slesk said he was extremely pleased by how the team came around during the postseason.
"I think we were reeling pretty good middle of the season," he said. "We were in a bunch of our games. Kids got a little frustrated. We just kind of retooled things a little bit as a group and kind of had a refocus. They kind of took that to heart a little bit. These last two weeks, they've competed way better than they have all year."
With Saturday's losses, the Trojans will bid farewell to seven seniors listed on their playoff roster: Anderson, Hosick, Davis Phillips, Jacob Plagerman, Walker Sundstrom, Hodge and Linderman, who led Meridian with two hits Saturday.
"(They) meant a lot, meant a lot, because they all worked their tail off," Slesk said of his seniors. "No complaining. They do what they're asked. ... We're going to have some holes to fill because it's a hard working group - a group that wants to play baseball. Every class should take that message from them."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
CHARLES WRIGHT/LIFE CHRISTIAN 3, MERIDIAN 1
Meridian 001 000 0 - 1 4 1
CWA/LCA 030 000 x - 3 2 4
WP: Taylor Roelofs. LP: Tanner Tutterrow. Highlights: Meridian: Tanner Tutterrow 1-2, Dakota Jones 2-3, Kyle Linderman 1-3.
OVERLAKE 2, MERIDIAN 0
Overlake 000 020 0 - 2 5 2
Meridian 000 000 0 - 0 5 3
WP: Ben Kelleran. LP: David Anderson. Highlights: Meridian: Josh Hosick 1-3, David Anderson 1-4, Davis Phillips 1-3, Kyle Linderman 1-3, Jamison Hodge 1-3.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.