Sports

Rally lands South Whidbey Falcons home baseball playoff game

Colton Sterba, a South Whidbey High School senior, pitches in the first inning against Granite Falls. The Falcons rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the fifth inning and held off a final-inning Tigers’ rally to win 5-4 and clinch a home playoff game next week.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Colton Sterba, a South Whidbey High School senior, pitches in the first inning against Granite Falls. The Falcons rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the fifth inning and held off a final-inning Tigers’ rally to win 5-4 and clinch a home playoff game next week.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

South Whidbey’s baseball players were all smiles and hugs after pulling out a 5-4 rally win in their final regular season home game.

More than that, the Falcons secured a home game in the 1A District 1 playoffs starting May 6. At worst, South Whidbey will finish in fourth place in the Cascade Conference standings, but could end up in second place if it beat Granite Falls on Friday, after The Record went to press.

“Our team battled, stayed up and got the win, like we have so many times this year,” said Falcon senior Colton Sterba, who pitched a complete game.

Granite Falls struck early with three consecutive singles to load the bases. A passed ball brought home the first Tiger score before a groundout to Falcon second baseman Trent Fallon got the first out at the expense of another run. A sacrifice fly to right fielder Charlie Patterson brought in the third run before a flyout to deep center field ended the damage.

The Tigers made a pitching change after the second inning. Starting pitcher Chris Gentry came out, and first baseman Greg Barnett was brought in. He continued to hold the Falcons scoreless for two innings. 

Then South Whidbey’s hitters caught on in the fifth inning by hitting through the order. Falcon senior CJ Sutfin reached first on a four-pitch walk. Jake Sladky, a senior, laid down a bunt between first base and the pitcher’s mound that enabled both him and Sutfin to safely reach base. With Mo Hamsa, a junior, at the plate, Sladky got caught in a pickle and safely dove back to first base to keep two runners on base. Hamsa chopped a RBI single over first base that drove in Sutfin. Ricky Muzzy, a sophomore, launched a shot to deep center field that seemed to be in the outfielder’s sights, but it went past his glove for an unearned run.

Charlie Patterson reached base after taking a pitch to his back. Sterba rocketed the ball to deep center for a sacrifice fly that scored the tying run. With two outs, junior Brent Piehler, the fourth batter in the lineup, knocked a RBI single to center field. Nick Bennett, a senior, followed with the eventual winning run by pulling a single past the third baseman.

Relief pitcher Alex O’Neill was brought in to end the inning by getting Sutfin to fly out.

“Ricky’s hit, that bomb that he had, started it off. Big hits like that always start off big innings,” Bennett said.

“Scoring five runs in one inning, it’s big,” he added. “But we need to score consistently, in more than just one inning.”

Sterba found his groove as the game wore on, eventually striking out seven batters. He gave up five hits, three of which led to scores in the first inning, and a pair of doubles by Granite Falls senior Riley Larsen in which he was left on base.

Granite Falls came within one run after a ground ball to Muzzy took a hop over his mitt and headed near second base, bringing in a two-out run to cut the lead to 5-4.

After the second Larsen double in the seventh inning, South Whidbey head coach Tom Fallon strolled out to the pitcher’s mound and called in the defense. At no point did he discuss pulling Sterba.

“I just kept battling,” Sterba said. “All I had to do was say I was fine and they kept their faith in me.”

Sterba struck out the next batter, but hit the following batter in the arm. With the tying run and go-ahead run on base, Sterba got Gentry to fly out to right field to end the game.

 

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