Late heroics not enough for Falcon baseball against Turks

The throw by Falcon catcher Aaron Curfman is late to shortstop Taylor Todd, giving Turk left fielder Steven Branham a stolen base on Monday.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
The throw by Falcon catcher Aaron Curfman is late to shortstop Taylor Todd, giving Turk left fielder Steven Branham a stolen base on Monday.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — Whatever the recipe to win a baseball game is, the Falcons are still looking for it.

An early lead, six total runs and extra innings still left the South Whidbey baseball team winless after a 7-6 loss to Sultan on Monday.

Falcon junior Jack Lewis pitched four scoreless innings, batted three-for-four and scored the seventh-inning tying run. South Whidbey’s defense gave up a critical run on an error in the eighth inning, however, and Sultan (2-7 Cascade Conference, 5-7 overall) left the Langley field with its second Cascade Conference win.

“Jack was great. He almost single-handedly won it for us,” said Falcon head coach Jeff Hodson.

The Falcons trailed 6-5 in the bottom of the seventh. Falcon junior catcher Aaron Curfman was on second base after being hit by a pitch and stealing when Lewis slammed a double to the right-center field fence that scored Curfman for the tying run at 6-6.

“It was right down the middle. I just put a good swing on it and with the warm weather it carried far,” Lewis said.

With two outs and a Turk runner on third, Turk center fielder Ian Cooper scored the go-ahead run with a grounder to Falcon shortstop Taylor Todd whose throw was too low for CJ Sutfin to cleanly snag.

“Our bats came through, our defense didn’t,” Hodson said.

The journey to another loss came after a hopeful start for the Falcons (0-12 Cascade Conference, 0-13 overall). South Whidbey held Sultan in check through the first three innings. It was the first time the Falcons had not allowed a runner on base in the opening inning this season, and was the only game South Whidbey scored first. Lewis faced only nine Turk batters through the first three innings and struck out two.

“Everything felt good. My curveball was working finally,” Lewis said.

In the third inning, Falcon second baseman Jake Sladky sparked a two-out rally that led to three runs. The sophomore reached first on an error by the Turks’ third baseman and stole second during Curfman’s at-bat. Curfman ripped a double down the third baseline and scored Sladky. The next at-bat, Lewis drove a single through the middle of the infield. Falcon senior third baseman Cameron Wildes was walked to put runners on first and second when senior outfielder Cody Haynes popped a blooper into shallow center field that scored Lewis’ pinch runner Casey Andrade. A scoring rally like that was welcome news for the Falcons who lost two of their previous three games without scoring once. Several of the Falcons swung and connected on the first pitch they saw, a sign that Hodson’s hitters were being aggressive at the plate.

“Our strikeouts have dramatically decreased over the past few games,” Hodson said.

“For us to win, we need to have all three cylinders working: mental, hitting and defense.”

Defensively, the Falcons lapsed in the next two innings.

Lewis walked the first two Turk batters in the fourth inning. Turk shortstop Jay Leverett hit a single between second and third base that brought home Cooper. Sultan loaded the bases after starting pitcher Cody Ohlsen reached first on a bunt between the pitcher’s mound and the third baseline. Travis Cornell, the Turks’ second baseman, scored a RBI walk that kept the bases loaded for catcher Chad Neisinger who hit a fielder’s choice to the Falcons’ second baseman. A low throw dashed the possible double play, instead giving the Falcons only their first out.

Another fielder’s choice scored a run when the double play throw to first base was dropped by Falcon senior Ammon Christensen.

“Having a three-walk inning wasn’t good, but it wasn’t the difference,” Hodson said.

“There were several hits at third base I thought could’ve been outs.”

Sultan padded its lead with three more runs in the fifth inning. Turk first baseman Isaac Cooper hit a single to right field and advanced to second on a fielding error by Haynes. Cooper scored when Ian Cooper pulled a double down the third baseline. The Turk center fielder reached home on a sacrifice fly by Leverett that Falcon center fielder Michael Agate chased down for the second out.

“They were squaring up the ball good,” Agate said. “They weren’t really hammering it though. I was able to run it down.”

Then, Lewis put some lift under the Falcons’ spirits when he jacked a triple to the right-center field fence. As he rounded second base, Lewis’ speed dropped while Ian Cooper’s throw hurled toward third base.

“Going around first, I saw it was still at the fence and Coach Hodson was waving me around,” Lewis said.

Wildes drove him home on an infield single to the Turk shortstop.

The Turks loaded the bases in the sixth inning. An error by Wildes, two bunts and a free base after King was hit by a pitch put the Turks in scoring position. Lewis got out of the inning without allowing another run by fielding two grounders in front of the mound and throwing to Curfman at home plate.

“I lost a bit of control. We all lost some focus in those innings,” Lewis said. “They had a pretty solid middle of the order.”

In the seventh, Lewis gave up back-to-back singles before getting two Turks to fly out to Agate in center field. During the Falcons at bat, Lewis hit his game-extending double that scored Curfman from second base and slid into third on the Turks’ throw to home plate. Wildes was intentionally walked to put runners on the corners, but Wildes stole second base to eliminate an easy, infield double play. Lewis stole home on a wild pitch that sent the Falcon dugout into fits of cheers in anticipation of a possible first win.

“That’s when we had a chance. That really got us going the right direction. It gave us a little bit of hope,” Agate said.

“We kept fighting the whole game. We got a 3-0 early in the game. We put too much pressure on ourselves to keep it.”

The Turks rolled in the eighth inning. With two outs and a runner on third base, the Turks’ leadoff hitter Ian Cooper hit a grounder to Todd at shortstop and beat the throw for the go-ahead run. Leverett got the Falcons to hit two grounders for outs and threw one strikeout for the victory.

South Whidbey visits Sultan on Wednesday, April 11 before finishing the series at home Friday, April 13.

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