A five-run second inning with two outs gave South Whidbey enough to work with Friday in its first win of the season, 6-3 over Granite Falls.
Securing the victory was hardly a given, despite leading much of the game. With one win in the books, Falcon head coach Tom Fallon breathed a little easier.
“The first one is always the toughest one, to kind of get the monkey off the back, if you will,” he said.
“This was the first game we didn’t face a dominant, overpowering pitcher,” he added. “I think the young guys felt more comfortable in their blocks. Everybody had a more comfortable swing today.”
The Falcon baseball team rallied in the second inning, batting through the order and grabbing five runs. South Whidbey held onto the lead behind the arm of sophomore pitcher Will Simms, who threw six innings and allowed three runs on nine hits and four walks while striking out seven.
South Whidbey capitalized on its chances, while Granite Falls stranded plenty of its players on base.
In the first inning, the Tigers got their first four batters on the field. With the bases loaded and facing a towering hitter Greg Barnett, Simms got the Tiger to hit a grounder to Falcon third baseman Austin Sterba, who threw out the runner at home. Falcon senior catcher Brent Piehler forced out Barnett at first base for the double play.
Ricky Muzzy, a Falcon junior, led off with a single through third base and the shortstop. Using his speed, Muzzy stole second and third base on consecutive tries, then scored on a grounder by sophomore Connor Antich.
Granite Falls regained the lead in the second inning after getting two runners on base due to an error and a single. The runners reached third and second base on a passed ball, and a sacrifice fly by Alex O’Neill scored Sammy Blacken. Simms got out of the inning with a groundout and a called strikeout.
South Whidbey’s second inning set up to be a quick one. Piehler opened with a single through the infield into left field. Sterba took a four-pitch walk to put runners on first and second. Simms laid a sacrifice bunt to third base to move both runners into scoring position. But the second out came from designated hitter Trent Fallon, a senior who recently rejoined the team after missing some of the preseason with a knee injury, on a strikeout.
“We were really picking it up and all getting excited, wanting to get up, hit and score a run,” Simms said.
Two outs, so what? Falcon senior Campbell Albertsen knocked a two RBI grounder to third base and beat the throw. A passed ball moved Albertsen to second base, then he reached third base after getting caught in a pickle and reaching third on an overthrow. Muzzy walked to first base, and a balk by Barnett scored Albertsen and moved Muzzy along.
Antich ripped a double to shallow center, scoring Muzzy from second base. Nobody covered second base as the blooper drew both the shortstop and second baseman into the outfield, leaving an open base for Antich to dive for head-first.
Mo Hamsa took three called balls from Barnett before Granite Falls head coach Doug Engstrom relieved him and brought in Alex O’Neill. Hamsa was walked to first, followed by another walk for junior Charlie Patterson to load the bases. Piehler, up for the second time in the inning, scored Antich after taking the third straight walk.
Granite Falls got its final run in the third. Tiger senior Daniel Head ripped a double down the third baseline for a standup double. A sacrifice fly by Chris Gentry moved Head to third base. Barnett knocked a RBI single into shallow center field.
The Tigers had a chance to cut the lead even further. A grounder by Tucker Zachry led to a force out at second base. Blacken was hit by a pitch, putting two runners on base. But they were stranded after a grounder by Griffin Chapman went past Sterba’s glove, but was grabbed by Muzzy covering from shortstop for the throw out at second base.
Simms hit his stride in the fifth inning. After giving up a leadoff single to Gentry, he struck out three straight batters. His arm again got South Whidbey out of a jam in the sixth inning when he gave up a pair of walks and a single but countered with two strikeouts and a throwout by Piehler to second base.
“I just found a rhythm and was having fun throwing with my catcher, letting my team play defense,” Simms said.
“It was good that my defense was helping me out, keeping them stuck on the bases,” he added.
Muzzy closed out the game in the seventh, striking out the first two batters he faced and getting the third to fly out to deep right field.