Prep Baseball & Softball

Pioneers take next step but fall short

Nooksack Valley third baseman Kyle Veldman tags out a Tenino runner during a Class 1A State Tournament regional game Saturday, May 21, at Castle Rock High School.
Nooksack Valley third baseman Kyle Veldman tags out a Tenino runner during a Class 1A State Tournament regional game Saturday, May 21, at Castle Rock High School. The Bellingham Herald

Nooksack Valley didn’t quite make it to Yakima, but Pioneers coach Scott Gelwicks was certainly pleased his Pioneers, in the state tournament for the second straight season, took another step forward.

It was just last spring when Nooksack Valley suffered a heartbreaking one-run, extra-inning loss during the team’s state opener.

This time the Pioneers were on the right end of the one-run decision.

Leaning heavily on a world-class performance on the mound and at the plate from senior Noah Rawls, the Pioneers earned a 1-0 Class 1A State Tournament regional win against Tenino before falling to Vashon Island 10-5 during the quarterfinal matchup Saturday, May 21, at rainy Castle Rock High School.

“Nooksack Valley baseball isn’t exactly on the front pages,” Gelwicks said. “Last year to lose 2-1 in eight innings and then come here and win 1-0 and get that next step. It’s all about steps. It’s all about keeping these kids wanting to work hard so we can keep getting better all the time.”

Rawls’ ability was on full display against Tenino. The senior ace threw a complete-game, three-hitter and struck out 10 batters. He also was 2 for 3 with a double, triple and a walk.

While Rawls kept Tenino off the scoreboard, the Pioneers had their own offensive woes facing Beavers pitcher Kaleb Strawn. Sixteen times Nooksack Valley was set down on strikes, but a gutsy call from Gelwicks paid off in the top of the seventh.

Desperately craving a run, with one out and speedy Evan Neitling at third base, Gelwicks called a suicide squeeze with Koert Weidkamp at the plate. Neitling broke for the plate on Strawn’s delivery, but his pitch bounced in front of the plate and past Tenino’s catcher, easily allowing Neitling to score the eventual game-winning run.

“The thinking was we weren’t hitting the ball well,” Gelwicks joked. “and we got to figure out a way to score a run.”

Rawls swiftly retired Tenino in order in the bottom of the seventh, sealing the 1-0 win.

Nooksack Valley struggled from the onset against Vashon Island. Starting pitcher Kyle Veldman walked seven hitters during the first two innings, which helped the Pirates build a 3-0 lead. Vashon Island led 7-0 by the bottom of the fourth.

Nooksack Valley battled back to trim the lead to 8-5, but ultimately the early deficit was too steep.

Vashon Island 10, Nooksack Valley 5

Vashon Island

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Nooksack Valley

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WP: Logan Hawkins. LP: Kyle Veldman. Highlights: Nooksack Valley: Casey Bauman 2-4, RBI; Evan Neitling 0-2, 2 BB, 2 RBI.

Nooksack Valley 1, Tenino 0

Nooksack Valley

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Tenino

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WP: Noah Rawls. LP: Kaleb Strawn. Highlights: Nooksack Valley: Noah Rawls 2-2, 2B, 3B, BB; Michael Jackson 1-3, HBP. Tenino: Coulson Chambers 1-3; Jace Griffis 1-2;.

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