Ferndale looks as though it’s developed quite a hitter for two more years, while Burlington-Edison has a senior standout who has learned a lesson without cost to the Tigers.
Ferndale’s 7-3 loss to Burlington on Thursday, April 30 — despite sophomore Matt James’ three-run homer on a 3-for-3 day for the Golden Eagles — spoiled an unbeaten league record.
But the setback still left the Eagles needing no help to claim the Northwest Conference baseball championship outright.
The Class 3A Eagles (14-3 overall, 9-1 NWC) will definitely finish No. 1 if they can win their final two league games, against Sehome on May 4 and Blaine on May 6.
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In the wake of their sixth consecutive win, the Tigers (11-6, 9-2) are not only in the running for at least a share of the league title, but also in contention for the league’s top seed at Class 2A Northwest District.
Anacortes (12-4, 9-2), a 9-0 winner over Lynden on Thursday, is also in the running for those distinctions.
James’ impressive two-strike shot over the left-field foul pole in the fourth inning — following singles by Brady Shearer and Kyler Schemstad — tied the game 3-3.
“Matt is a natural catcher, but he’s playing behind a four-year catcher (Shearer), so he’s been serving as a designated hitter,” Ferndale coach Donny Hennigs said. “He can definitely hit at this level.”
The Tigers, however, rallied for four hits and four runs in the sixth, resulting in the first game all season in which Ferndale gave up more than four runs. The Eagles came in having allowed only 37 runs in 16 games over a span of only 42 days — remarkable pitching in anyone’s book.
What made Burlington’s game-winning rally even more intriguing was that four-year shortstop Mason Schwetz, one of the league’s best players, was taken out in the fifth inning by coach John Thurmond. Schwetz threw his helmet after being thrown out at home by Ferndale first baseman Kole Weidkamp.
“It turned out all right,” Thurmond said. “Mason’s our spark plug and he always plays hard. I would take 10 players like him. Maybe this was a reminder.”
Schwetz readily agreed.
“I deserved to get pulled,” said Schwetz, who went 2 for 2 with two doubles and an RBI. “I learned a lesson.”
Ironically, the player who replaced Schwetz — big sophomore first baseman JP Sullivan — capped the four-run rally with a two-run, two-out single in the sixth.
“I loved seeing that,” Schwetz said of Sullivan, who was a key pass protector at tackle for quarterback Schwetz last football season.
Hennigs said his team can still make history with a title.
“Our kids have been pushing real hard,” the coach said. “They been trying to win our first (unbeaten) league title in something like 40 years. That‘s a good team (Burlington) and they deserve credit.”
Ferndale suffered a luckless fifth inning after Kyle Sandstrom led off with a bunt single but Connor Erickson lined hard into a double play. Kyler Brudwick responded with a double, but Kyler Schemstad lined out to first base.
Burlington fashioned its four-run sixth on singles by Sean Ferdig and Drew Larson, a hit batter, an error on Hunter Anderson’s run-scoring grounder, an RBI single by Derek Cherryholmes and Sullivan’s two-run line single.
Burlington senior Caleb Brigham pitched three scoreless innings in his first varsity start before giving up James’ three-run shot. Brigham, who displayed an effective curve, responded by striking out two hitters and forcing a pop up to end his four-inning stint.
Junior third baseman Trey Lopez, Burlington’s cleanup hitter, gained his first win with three scoreless innings in relief of Brigham. Lopez battled hard to overcome three walks and five Ferndale hits.
Brudwick, Shearer, Schemstad and James — the Nos. 3 through 6 hitters — combined for nine of Ferndale’s 11 hits.
Burlington received RBI singles in the fourth by No. 8 hitter Larson and No. 9 Tyson Frazier for a 3-0 lead. A single by Anderson and a double by Schwetz produced the first run in the opening inning.
The Tigers — who matched Ferndale with 11 hits — were so focused at bat that Burlington struck out only once, and that not until the seventh inning.
Ferndale next plays Saturday at Glacier Peak before taking on Sehome and Blaine in the final league games.
Burlington-Edison 7, Ferndale 3
WP: Trey Lopez (1-0). LP: Corbin Puhan (5-2). Highlights: Burlington: Hunter Anderson 1-4, RBI; Derek Cherryholmes 2-3, RBI; Mason Schwetz 2-2, 2 2B, RBI; Nic Metcalf 1-4; Sean Ferdig 1-4; Drew Larson 2-3, RBI; Tyson Frazier 1-2, RBI. Ferndale: Matt James 3-3, HR, 2B, 3 RBI; Kyler Brudwick 2-3, 2B; Brady Shearer 2-3; Kyler Schemstad 2-4, 2B; Kyle Sandstrom 1-4; Connor Erickson 1-4.