The Falcons played three games’ worth of innings Saturday and left the 1A bi-district baseball tournament still in the fight after splitting two contests 9-6 and 1-0.
South Whidbey gutted its way through a 14-inning, four-hour contest against Overlake in the opening game that started at 10 a.m. and finished around 2 p.m. in Bellingham. South Whidbey won the game 9-6, packed up in a hurry, its players dispersed to grab a quick lunch, drove across town to the next field and waited a half hour to take on Meridian for a shot at an automatic state berth.
“It was a coaching nightmare,” said Falcon head coach Tom Fallon. Long games require a heavy pitching rotation, a luxury South Whidbey hasn’t had as reliably as Fallon initially planned for before the season began. About three players have been regular starters: senior Mo Hamsa, junior Charlie Patterson and sophomore Will Simms.
A standard high school baseball game lasts seven innings, with extra innings added as needed until a team has a lead.
South Whidbey played without one of its stalwart seniors. Brent Piehler, who was the Falcons’ primary starting catcher and a power hitter, was ineligible for the Overlake game after being ejected for a hard collision at home plate in a non-league game against Lynden earlier in the week.
Austin Sterba, a sophomore who played a few innings as catcher this season, took over the role as the last line of defense to his coach’s amazement.
“There were a couple pop flies he was diving for, just throwing his body around,” Fallon said.
In the first game, South Whidbey took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning. The Falcons expanded it to a 3-0 lead in the fourth, only to have Overlake come back and score three runs on Simms, who started the game.
Ricky Muzzy, a junior, took the mound for Simms in the fifth inning. Most of the season, Muzzy has come in as the team’s closer in the fifth or sixth inning, relying on a mix of location and velocity. Against Overlake, Muzzy pitched six innings, which Fallon said was the most the Falcon junior and starting shortstop has thrown in high school.
After South Whidbey scored three runs to go ahead 6-3 in the 10th, Muzzy gave up three runs despite having two outs. Hamsa took over on the mound and pitched through the 13th inning without allowing a run.
Muzzy led off the 13th inning with a home run. Connor Antich, a sophomore, was walked. Hamsa hit a single to move Antich into scoring position that set up Patterson’s RBI single, followed by a RBI single from Trent Fallon.
Patterson closed the game on the mound, putting on one batter with a walk before striking out the next three to win.
“It was an absolutely epic game,” Tom Fallon said.
Hurrying off the field to drive across Bellingham for their next game, South Whidbey slogged its way against Meridian on the synthetic turf of Joe Martin Field.
Fallon noted that grounders were practically stopped in the infield because of the spring in the rubber pellets.
Meridian’s pitcher shut down South Whidbey’s bats. The Falcons collected only three hits, tempered by only four strikeouts.
South Whidbey had a couple of chances to score, but both were ended by double plays.
“We just didn’t have anything left in the tank,” Fallon said. “We clawed and scratched as long as we could.”
Meridian got the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh. With Patterson on the mound, the Trojans led off with a walk that came around to score.
South Whidbey got a runner in scoring position after Brent Piehler reached second base. But the Falcons couldn’t bring him home to end the game 1-0.
“Stress baseball. It was 21 just tough, nail-bite innings,” Fallon said. “The luck kind of ran out there at the end of that game.”
Fallon gave the team the day off of practice Monday, allowing “everyone time to get away from baseball.” But he planned to resume Tuesday with a focus on hitting in anticipation of Saturday’s win-or-go-home game against University Prep at 12:30 p.m. May 16 at Sehome High School.
The winner will play either Cedar Park Christian or Overlake on the same field at 2:30 p.m.