In his nine seasons as Meridian’s baseball coach, Steve Slesk could not remember being thrilled by more effective pitching in the first two games of the postseason.
Slesk’s young team clinched a berth in the Class 1A State Regionals as Derek Campfield and Simon Burkett combined to allow zero earned runs in Meridian’s 7-2 win over King’s followed by a 3-2 nine-inning win over South Whidbey at Joe Martin Stadium on Saturday, May 7, in the Northwest Bi-District Tournament.
The Trojans, who are 12-10 after opening the season 2-7, will play for the tourney title against Cedar Park Christian on Saturday, May 14, at 2:30 p.m. at Joe Martin.
“This is our sixth or seventh (state regional) spot,” said Slesk, whose teams have won three trophies in the state final four. “Our kids take great pride and they really want that (bi-district) title now.”
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Meridian scored the winner against South Whidbey (13-9) with two outs in the bottom of the ninth after Tyler Linderman reached base on an error. He scored on three wild pitches, though Falcons catcher Austin Sterba could not be faulted -- he caught all 20 of South Whidbey’s innings in two games.
Meridian scored twice in the sixth against the Falcons on a single by Dakota Jones, a walk, Campbell’s RBI double and Burkett’s suicide squeeze.
“I knew I could get that bunt down,” Burkett said with a grin. “We practice that every day.”
Meridian’s five-run third inning against King’s began with hits by No. 8 and No. 9 hitters Devyn Holmes and Henry Skaggs, followed by a walk Linderman’s RBI single and a run-scoring wild pitch. Brady Moore hit a sacrifice fly, followed by run-scoring singles by Campfield and Burkett.
That five-run inning produced more runs than any other team scored in the four opening-round games and the two championship semifinals.
NOOKSACK STAYS ALIVE
Nooksack Valley (9-13) opened with a 15-strikeout, 110-pitch masterpiece from Noah Rawls (6-2) in a 2-1 win over Overlake. Rawls, whose earned-run average is below 1.00, has 103 strikeouts this season.
The Pioneers scored both runs in the sixth. Kirk Veldman singled and pinch-runner Tyler Weed stole second when Kyle Veldman’s fly ball was dropped. Mark Coppinger then singled home the second run.
Mike Jackson went 2 for 3 with a double for Nooksack.
In the second game, Kyle Veldman pitched well enough to win but suffered a 1-0 loss to Cedar Park Christian’s Michael Attalah, who limited the Pioneers to hits by Kyle Veldman and Rawls.
“They were both great. Our pitchers did a wonderful job. You couldn’t ask for more,” said Nooksack coach Scott Gelwicks, whose team will play a loser-out game on Saturday, May 14, against King‘s, an 8-5 winner over University Prep.
YOUNG LC OUT
Lynden Christian (5-17) fell to Cedar Park 2-1 in 11 innings, then suffered elimination by Overlake 12-6.
Freshman Payton Robertson impressively held Cedar Park to one run and seven hits with just over 100 pitches in the first nine innings before leaving. Colby Flint singled home LC’s run. Cedar Park’s Ben Hann singled home the winner in the 11th.
“I was really proud of our guys,” first-year LC coach Dan Vander Kooi said, referring to how well his young team battled against the contender from Bothell.
In the loss to Overlake, Flint drove in two runs with a double and single while Marc Meenderinck and Tyson Cline had two hits apiece and helped the Lyncs rally for six runs in the last three innings.