South Whidbey lost the state 1A baseball championship game 6-4 to Hoquiam and still made history.
It was the first time South Whidbey High School had reached a state title game.
As it had in just about every game this season, South Whidbey fought as far as the Falcons could. But this time, the Falcons’ fight fell short of capturing the title that went to the Hoquiam Grizzlies.
“We hit balls hard all day, they made great plays,” Falcon head coach Tom Fallon said Monday. “That’s state baseball, that’s the way the state championship should be.”
“This will never be taken away from this group of kids,” he added. “They played for the state title.”
After starting an hour later than scheduled while the previous game in Yakima went into extra innings, South Whidbey fell behind early and couldn’t recover.
Hoquiam took a three-run lead in the first inning on a double by Grizzlies sophomore Skyler Jump to the right-field fence off of starting Falcon pitcher Will Simms. The sophomore was put on the mound, said Fallon, because he had the most rested arm after pitching only a few innings the previous weekend and having watched Hoquiam “blast” a left-handed pitcher the previous game. That left South Whidbey, in Fallon’s opinion, with two options: Simms and junior Ricky Muzzy, who had thrown a complete game the previous Saturday.
“We went into it like every other game,” Fallon said.
“The one difference was we got down early,” he added. “That changes the dynamics and the way you can play the game.”
Trying to catch up, South Whidbey was held scoreless and trailing 5-0 in the top of the fifth inning. Jump, Hoquiam’s starting pitcher, had held the Falcons without a hit to this point.
Before putting on their helmets and gloves, Fallon huddled the team together. He said he told them a quick joke to break the tension and get them to laugh a little.
“I told them, ‘I’m sick of looking at that goose egg up there. Let me let you in on a little secret, we have to score one before we score two,’ and that got them to giggle a little bit,” he said.
The light-hearted pep talk worked.
Simms broke the no-hitter with a single to right field and reached second on a sacrifice bunt by senior Campbell Albertsen. A fly ball hit by junior Ricky Muzzy fell in right field, moving Simms to third base. Connor Antich, a sophomore, grounded out to second base to bring in Simms for the Falcons’ first run. Mo Hamsa, a senior, was walked to put runners on first and second. Fallon called for a hit-and-run for senior Brent Piehler, who blasted the ball to right field to bring in two runs. Trent Fallon knocked in South Whidbey’s final run on a hit through the infield.
Trailing by only one run, South Whidbey was poised to recover. But in the next inning, Hoquiam scored another run on a two-out single to center field off Falcon junior pitcher Charlie Patterson, who had relieved Simms earlier in the fourth inning. Fallon said the score killed South Whidbey’s momentum.
“The inch needed to catch a ball or not catch a ball went their way,” Fallon said.
“We’re definitely not a team built to come from behind,” he added. “We’re going to score about three, four runs.”
South Whidbey wasn’t able to cross the plate again as Hoquiam secured its first state baseball title since 1980.
After the loss, South Whidbey received the second-place trophy in a short ceremony at home plate. Fallon said he gathered the team together briefly behind the stadium before boarding the bus for a long ride back to Whidbey.
“My whole message was, ‘We can’t be upset with this finish.’ I know we were so close, but in my mind that was not a failure,” Fallon said. “That was an amazing, amazing, effort that came up just short.”
“It would have been easy to roll over and die and not get back into this game,” he added.