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Pitching duel favors Woodland over South Whidbey
South Whidbey’s run in the state 1A baseball tournament ended Saturday with a 1-0 loss to Woodland.
The Falcons won their first-round game 10-5 against Tenino, only to struggle at the plate in the quarterfinals. It was South Whidbey’s first time in the state tournament in decades, or possibly ever given the barren nature of the school’s gymnasium baseball plaques.
“It was a heck of a tournament,” said Falcon head coach Tom Fallon.
“Definitely a pitcher’s duel,” he added.
Woodland was the favored team going in, having placed third last season and second in 2012. But the Falcons kept the Beavers in check through five innings and hitless until the sixth inning. The Beavers got their first hit after a grounder caught the lip of the infield and jumped by senior Colton Sterba. The next hit scored the go-ahead and only run.
South Whidbey’s only hit came in the top of the seventh inning. Ricky Muzzy, a sophomore, got a single and was moved to second base on a sacrifice by Charlie Patterson. He reached third base on a passed ball, meaning the tying run was 90 feet and another wild pitch scoring. With two strikes, Fallon called for a suicide squeeze on Sterba, but the hit went foul and Sterba was out.
“I made one of the hardest coaching decisions of my life and called for a suicide squeeze with two strikes,” Fallon said.
Brent Piehler, who had pitched the Falcons to a two-hit, one-run game, stepped to the plate with two outs and hit a pop fly that ended the game and South Whidbey’s playoff run.
“To battle the team that is 22-1 and has been ranked #1 in that kind of game, there is nothing to be ashamed of,” Fallon said.
In the earlier game against Tenino, South Whidbey trailed for four innings.
“We were trying to play catchup the whole time,” Fallon said.
The Falcons took the lead in the fifth inning and never looked back, thanks to a bases-loaded catch by senior center fielder Jake Sladky to preserve the lead. Mo Hamsa, a junior, hit a two RBI single and Sladky hit a two RBI single to push the Falcons’ lead to 10-5 in the sixth inning. Sterba went 3-for-3 with a sacrifice fly and two doubles. Hamsa had two singles and a walk with two RBI.
Falcon junior Charlie Patterson threw a complete game in the win.
Despite ending the season short of the state championship game, Fallon said he was proud the team achieved one of the goals he set for them: to put a plaque on the school’s gym. As District 1 champions, runners-up in the tri-district tournament and fifth place in the state tournament, there will be a few more at Erickson Gym.
“I wanted these guys to get something on that wall,” Fallon said. “Now we’ve got a district title and fifth place at state on that wall. They can look up and see what we did this year, and hopefully that’s the first of many.”