In any sport, it’s crucial not to get over confident when you’re ahead.
A lesson hopefully learned by the South Whidbey baseball team following Friday’s 11-9 loss to Cedarcrest in extra innings for the final regular game of the season.
“This was the one that got away,” Falcon coach Dave Guetlin said ruefully of the loss.
“For the second day in a row, it looked like we were going to defeat league leader Cedarcrest and take the season series,” he said. “But with a 9-3 lead going into the fifth inning, the wheels fell off our defense for some unexplainable reason.”
In the Falcon first inning, Lucas Yale led off the game with a drive over the right fielder’s head but was thrown out at third base trying to stretch a double into a triple.
Next, South Whidbey’s Robert Kirby stepped up and drove a shot over the left fielder’s head for a double and then scored after two wild pitches.
South Whidbey’s second inning saw the boys plate four unearned runs on only two hits and four Cedarcrest miscues. Nick Tenuta then led off the third with a single, stole second base and scored on an Eric Sparks single to center field.
Finally, in the fourth inning, the Falcons scored three more runs with the key shot a two-run single by Kirby. Yale also picked up a bunt base hit in the inning.
The Falcons picked up runs in the first four innings and were sailing along with the tally
9-3 until the Red Wolves brought in relief pitcher Cameron Cook.
Cook quickly silenced the Falcon bats for the last four innings of play and struck out seven.
The Red Wolves ended the game by picking up eight straight unearned runs against the Falcons.
The boys didn’t go quietly, however, as they ended up bringing the winning run to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning but couldn’t get the key hit.
Yale ended with three hits and a double for the Falcons and Kirby a double and two RBIs.
“We just choked at the end,” first baseman Trapper Rawls said.
“We played solid ball to the fifth and then just folded as a team. Maybe we felt too comfortable with that six-point lead.”
When pitcher Hunter Rawls took over from CJ Baker late in the game, the coach told him to, “’Do your work and strike out those guys,’” he said. “But we started committing errors and couldn’t recover fast enough.”
Catcher Aaron Mannie had no excuses for the loss.
“We had a meltdown,” he said.
Tenuta said that since the team hadn’t been in such a commanding position all year, perhaps everyone just panicked. “There was a snowball effect as they started scoring on errors we made,” Tenuta said.
Before the game, a brief ceremony was held honoring the team’s three seniors — Baker, Robert Boenish and Mannie.
Though he pitched a solid outing, Baker said it was hard to handle the idea it was his last time playing at Falcon Field.
“Four years, it’s tough to let it go,” he said. “We were all frustrated losing a game we should have won but you need to stay focused to the final out and we just didn’t do that.”
The Falcons end the year at 4-13 in league play, 5-14 overall — Cedarcrest is 13-4, 13-5, one game behind Lakewood, which has already captured a playoff berth.
On Tuesday, South Whidbey played Anacortes at Volunteer Park in a crossover contest after The Record’s presstime. If they won, they’ll move into the double elimination part of the district tournament.
Tenuta noted that prospects are bright for next year.
“We’ll have eight seniors returning. All of us are going to play American Legion baseball this summer and that will keep the bonding alive,” he said. “The teams we lost to better watch out.”
Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or sports@south