Ferndale’s two pitchers coaxed enough consecutive outs without a hit until the fateful 11th inning to produce the equivalent of a high school no-hitter.
But not even that formidable feat could extend the Golden Eagles’ stay in the Class 3A State Baseball Tournament.
Even so, such competitive pitching helps explain why Brady Shearer, the fourth-year catcher and team leader, accurately assessed Ferndale’s effort in a 4-3, 11-inning loss to Bainbridge in the opening round of the state regionals on Saturday, May 23.
“It’s sad to see it end it this way, but at least we gave it our all,” Shearer said moments after enduring the sting of a two-out, walk-off hit by the Spartans at Skagit Valley College’s Dream Field. “We have nothing to hang our heads about.”
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Ferndale coach Donny Hennigs expressed the same sentiments after a brief but meaningful meeting.
“I told the kids I love them all,” said Hennigs, himself a former Ferndale standout. “I told them they would always be welcome at Ferndale. Once a Golden Eagle, always a Golden Eagle.”
It was just too bad from the Golden Eagles’ standpoint that they could not have stayed in uniform longer during what Hennigs noted was the fifth state tournament appearance in school history. But the same would have been said of Bainbridge had the Spartans lost.
That’s how stubbornly both teams performed in the final eight innings, with each recovering from some shaky moments in the first three.
With one out in the bottom of the 11th, Bainbridge’s No. 9 hitter, Brice Koslosky, singled. It was the first hit off senior reliever Nate Carlson since he took over in the seventh for starter Kyler Schemstad with the game tied 3-3.
It was, in fact, the first hit for Bainbridge since a leadoff single in the fourth by Truman Miller.
That’s right — in a state regional game against a quality opponent with only two losses, Schemstad and Carlson retired no fewer than 22 batters without a hit until Koslosky’s fateful hit to left field.
Koslosky advanced to second on a balk. Ferndale center fielder Kyle Sandstrom temporarily staved off defeat when he raced in to take away a possible hit from Blake Swanson for the second out. But Carter Kraus worked a full-count walk and No. 3 batter Trent Schulte singled solidly to center and Koslosky raced home.
Even then, the Eagles would not go down easily. Sandstrom made a fine throw directly to Shearer, but Koslosky barely but clearly beat Shearer’s desperate swipe tag.
But it was season over for Ferndale (19-6), which came in with three consecutive comeback wins in loser-out games at districts.
The Golden Eagles had become the victims of what others might have seen as a gamble in a loser-out game, but not Bainbridge coach Scott Pollack.
Senior cleanup hitter Duncan McCombs pitched nine solid innings for Bainbridge, effectively scattering eight hits while withstanding four errors and benefiting from three double plays and facing 35 hitters. Pollack then brought in sophomore Jason Snare.
Snare had pitched briefly in only one varsity game, but Pollack said he sees a huge upside in the poised youngster, who looked for all the world like he had seen the mound at least a dozen times.
Snare (1-0) justified Pollack’s faith with two hitless innings against a much better than average Ferndale lineup. Snare struck out the first hitter, then coaxed three pop-ups and two ground-outs.
“With two excellent senior starters (McCombs and Schulte), and not much need for closers, along with our 12 seniors, I wanted Snare to get his starts on the junior varsity,” Pollack said. “I though he would be ready for the varsity level for sure.”
“We knew he had the potential. He’s competitive, focused, serious and warms up really well.”
Schemstad threw 118 pitches over the first six innings, with all three runs unearned against the junior left-hander, due to a pair of two-out errors in the first and third innings. He allowed four hits, struck out seven and walked three, only one of whom scored.
All eight of Ferndale’s hits were solid, but the only time more than one came in the same inning was in the Golden Eagles’ two-run first inning.
Conner Erickson walked and went to third on a hard double to left-center by Kyler Brudwick, who was the only Golden Eagle with two hits. Shearer lined an RBI single and Schemstad brought home Brudwick with a right-side grounder.
Bainbridge, however, tied it 2-2 in the first with two-out singles by Schulte and McCombs. Thomas launched a drive to right-center for which Carlson ran a long way back and over, only to see the ball pop out of the glove. The official scorer ruled an error.
Both teams scored on two-out errors in the third, setting up a monumental struggle. There were several plays of the caliber of a catch near the left-field fence in the eighth by Ian Barnes with two runners on, keeping the game alive.
“They were on their game,” Shearer said of Schemstad and Carlson (0-1), whom Hennigs noted pitched far longer than he had any other time this season. “It was one of our best pitching performances.”
Hennigs felt the same way.
“Both of our guys pitched their tails off,” the coach said. “It was a phenomenal game. We needed 33 outs (to have a chance to extend the game to a 12th inning) but we got 32.”
Hennigs couldn’t hide his pride, though.
“I am so proud of what our seniors have accomplished,” he said, looking forward to the return of a handful of fine prospects. “If they can compete like that throughout life, some positive things will happen for them.”
Bainbridge 4, Ferndale 3 (11)
WP: Jason Snare (1-0). LP: Nate Carlson (0-1). Highlights: Ferndale: Kyle Sandstrom 1-5; Conner Erickson 1-4, R; Kyler Brudwick 2-5, 2B, 2 R; Brady Shearer 1-5, RBI; Kyler Schemstad RBI; Matt James 1-3; Kole Weidkamp 1-4; Nate Carlton 1-4. Bainbridge: Trent Schulte 2-5, R, Game-winning RBI; Duncan McCombs 1-3, 2R; Truman Miller 1-3; Brice Kosloski 2-4, R.