While Ferndale coach Donny Hennigs may have sprouted some new gray hairs during a tense late inning during the Golden Eagles’ Northwest Conference clash with Squalicum, his team reacted like the veteran club it is.
Powered by another strong outing from junior left-hander Kyler Schemstad, the Golden Eagles were well on their way to a ninth straight league win until the Storm engineered a threatening two-out sixth inning rally that tested Ferndale’s resolve.
Schemstad had retired 11 straight and had given up one hit before surrendering a single, walk, double and another single in the bottom of the sixth, allowing Squalicum to suddenly trim the Golden Eagles’ lead to 4-3.
But with a runner at second, Schemstad got Tim Lann to fly out. One inning later, the Golden Eagles finished off the Storm, keeping their perfect league record intact with a 4-3 NWC victory Tuesday, April 28, at Joe Martin Field.
“We got into their big part of the lineup there, and we made a couple mistakes, and they made (Schemstad) pay for it,” Hennigs said. “Like this team, we have played so many close games that nobody gets panicked. The kids answered the bells.”
Schemstad, who is beginning to patent his outings by pounding the strike zone, keeping hitters off-balance by mixing speeds and trusting his defense, pushed his record to 5-0. He went the distance, giving up four hits and one walk while striking out a batter.
The Ferndale starter completed his seven innings with 80 pitches.
Storm ace David Stealy didn’t have his best outing, Squalicum coach John Inge said, but he went six innings, gave up five hits with five strikeouts and didn’t receive much help from his defense early on.
The Golden Eagles (14-2, 9-0 NWC) took a 2-0 lead before Schemstad took the mound, which Ferndale catcher Brady Shearer said was pivotal.
“We just wanted to attack early and get him before he could get into rhythm,” said Shearer of Stealy, who Shearer caught during Post 7 ball last summer. “When he starts getting into a zone, he can cruise, so we wanted to get a few early and we were able to do that.”
Schemstad drove in Kyle Sandstrom with a two-out RBI single through the right side of the infield, and an errant throw back in allowed the Golden Eagle to score from third. The mishap was one of three crucial, uncharacteristic Storm errors.
Ferndale extended its lead to 3-0 in the top of the third on another Squalicum error. Shearer hit a ground ball deep in the hole between third and shortstop with two outs and Conner Erickson at second. Storm shortstop Ernie Yake made a great effort to get to the ball, but his throw was low to first baseman Drew Segren, who couldn’t prevent the ball from skipping past him. Erickson rounded third and easily scored.
“Ferndale is a good team, but you know what, we kind of had a couple defensive lapses that cost us,” Storm coach John Inge said. “Really, really, they did, and that’s something we haven’t had most of this year. That really hurt us.”
Ferndale tallied another insurance run in the top of the sixth when Dalton Neer, who was pinch running for Shearer, came around to score, and with Schemstad throwing well the Golden Eagles appeared poised to knock off another strong conference club.
Then with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, a Yake single into left field started an impressive Squalicum (13-5, 6-4 NWC) rally. Schemstad followed giving up his first hit since the second inning with his first walk of the game, and Kyle Little drove in Yake from second with a single into center field.
Trailing 4-1, Stealy put a true scare into the Golden Eagles when he sent a deep drive over the left fielder’s head for a two-RBI double, scoring Carter Nickelson and Little.
But just as Schemstad had so frequently done the previous five innings, he induced a pop up off Lann’s bat, ending the threat.
“He just throws a lot of strikes,” said Shearer of Schemstad. “He doesn’t do anything crazy. He just throws strikes and trusts our defense a lot. He knows that we are going to make the plays behind him. They have all year, and that’s big.”
Ferndale 4, Squalicum 3