Ferndale’s baseball team adopted the personality of its pitcher, Corbin Puhan, looking even-keeled and collected under pressure.
That consistent mindset paid off as the Golden Eagles knocked off Mountlake Terrace 8-3 in the consolation first round of the Class 3A District 1 Tournament on Tuesday, May 12, at Ferndale.
Puhan wasn’t flashy on the stat sheet, but he got the job done time and time again when the Hawks had runners in scoring position.
The pressure started early, as Puhan had to work his way out of jams in the first and second innings. Both times, with runners on second and third, he stuck to his strategy and got out of the innings unscathed.
“My strategy was to throw strikes and let the defense make plays,” he said. “I wanted to hit my spots, and Brady (Shearer) called a great game behind the plate. So I hit his spots, throw my off-speed stuff and see what I can do.”
There was some drama in the final inning, as well, with the Golden Eagles leading 8-2. Mountlake Terrace’s Jaden Yackley led off with an infield single, but after a lineout he was forced out in a fielder’s choice, putting Jason Shevenko on first for the Hawks. Puhan walked two straight batters on five pitches to load the bases before Gabe Brady singled in a run.
Sensing his pitcher’s fatigue, Ferndale coach Donny Hennigs brought in Nate Carlson with the tying run on deck and two outs. Designated hitter Jared Maxfield, who already had a home run to his name in the game, fouled off six of nine pitches before Carlson finally got him to pop out to Ian Barnes.
“Nate did a good job. That was a heck of a battle, and luckily we found a way to get him out,” Hennigs said.
Puhan finish with a pair of strikeouts and walks and two earned runs in six and two-thirds innings pitched for the win.
The Hawks’ first two runs came in the top of the fourth, when Maxfield hit his home run. Ferndale responded in the very next half of an inning.
Cole Weidkamp singled and advanced to third on Dalton Neer’s single into the left field corner. Barnes grounded into an out at first, but moved the Neer up to third on the hit and run while Weidkamp came in to score. Kyle Sandstrom hit a double to knock in Neer, and followed him home when Connor Erickson’s hard-hit ball to the Hawks’ shortstop was mishandled to give Ferndale the 5-2 lead. Erickson was picked off to end the inning.
That was the only successful pick-off move, but there were plenty of other opportunities. The game’s four pitchers combined for 17 pick-off attempts, keeping baserunners close to the bag.
“We have a history of playing these guys, we’ve played them at least the last three or four years in the district tournament,” Hennigs said, “and typically the games are 1-0. So when we get together, everybody’s fighting and scratching to score runs early.”
Yet again, Puhan was unfazed when runners attempted to throw him off by taking big leads or faking steal attempts.
“I don’t let it get to me,” he said. “We know, we’ve heard about them, that they like to bunt a lot. We know a lot of Wesco teams like to put the ball in play, make you make the plays and steal bases. We had stats on some of the guys, so we knew which guys had quite a few steals, so I was just trying to keep them close to the bag so they couldn’t get a free base.”
Hennigs was impressed with the way his pitcher conducted himself on the mound and stuck to the team’s style of play, even when he got into jams.
“He’s a senior who wanted to keep playing, and that’s the kind of guy you want on the mound in those loser-out situations,” he said. “He relies on throwing strikes and having the ball be in play and having our defense make the plays behind him. That’s been our recipe all year and he stuck with it.”
Sandstrom led the Golden Eagles in hitting, going 2 for 3 with a pair of runs scored, an RBI, a double, a walk and a stolen base. Kyler Brudwick was 3 for 4 with a run scored, and Dalton Neer was 2 for 3 with a pair of runs scored and a stolen base.
Ferndale plays again at 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 13, at home against Meadowdale. The Mavericks lost 9-2 to Shorewood in a semifinal match-up on Tuesday, May 12. The Golden Eagles need to win two more games to lock up a state playoff spot and the loser of both will be eliminated.
Ferndale 8, Mountlake Terrace 3