Matt Simms photo — South Whidbey senior Austin Sterba swings at an incoming pitch during the Falcons’ bi-district playoff game against Lynden Christian on Saturday. The Falcons lost 9-6.

Falcon baseball’s bid to reach state comes up short in bi-district

South Whidbey Falcon baseball players and coaches have come to expect that no matter how big the deficit, there’s always a chance to win.

But, despite that philosophy and their efforts Saturday against Lynden Christian, this one was out of their reach.

Lynden Christian dealt a 9-6 season ending blow to the Falcons in the consolation bracket of the bi-district playoffs on Saturday at Joe Martin Stadium in Bellingham.

The Falcons fell behind early and trailed 7-1. South Whidbey would later narrow the gap 7-5, but a two-run sixth inning cemented Lynden Christian’s lead and paved the way for the win that sent the Falcons home.

Lynden Christian lost in the third- and fourth-place game to Meridian 3-0.

Despite them coming up short, players and head coach Tom Fallon knew the team did all that it could to muster a comeback and turn the tide. The team didn’t give up.

“It has become one of the things we do,” Fallon said. “We’re never out until that last out.”

South Whidbey (12-10 overall) went 1-2 in the state qualifying tournament. Overlake, one of the top teams in class 1A, beat the Falcons 5-0 in the first round on May 6. The Falcons rebounded with a 4-3 comeback win over Sultan in the consolation bracket two days later.

Lynden Christian’s offense was too potent early on, players and coaches said. That, combined with leaving 13 runners on base, were deciding factors in the Falcons’ bid to advance to class 1A state playoffs for the fourth time in five years. Their last trip was in 2015 when they lost in the championship game to Hoquiam.

“It definitely hurt me personally because I was the last out,” senior outfielder Dylan Woodward said.

Woodward was one of seven senior’s whose high school careers ended Saturday. His final at-bat in the seventh inning came with precarious, but also thrilling circumstances. The Falcons trailed 9-6 with two outs, runners on second and third base and the season on the line.

He struck out.

“I was definitely very emotional right afterward,” Woodard said.

The baseball program felt like a “tight family” and having it come to an end hit him hard, he said.

Senior Will Simms saw the loss as a learning opportunity for the younger players. He went around to the underclassmen thanking them for their contributions to the team, but also reminding them that it was in the program’s tradition to battle in the playoffs and that they should continue to do so if they return to the postseason.

Simms, the Falcons’ top pitcher this season, started on the mound against Lynden Christian.

“I wasn’t getting the calls I was hoping to get, strike-wise,” Simms said. “I hit my spots, but they were just out. So, I walked too many guys.”

When the Lyncs scored several runs in the third and fourth innings, the Falcons were slightly demoralized. But, the feeling didn’t stick around long.

“You do get down in that situation just for a second, but you kind of learn to grow through it and work through it,” Woodward said. “If you get down, it’s going to get worse. You try to stay up definitely.”

“It’s definitely a blow to your confidence when that happens, but it happens all the time. Where you’re different from your opponent is where you can come back from those,” Simms added.

Though hurt by the loss, the Falcon seniors could take pride in the program’s success during their time. Along with two state appearances and a second place trophy in 2015, South Whidbey won 14 playoff games in four seasons. They also finished with 11 or more wins in each of those years.

They also had one of the more improbable comebacks in recent memory, said Fallon, when they turned around an eight-run deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Cedarcrest 10-8.

Simms and Woodward were also surprised by the play of the team’s underclassmen. Five freshmen regularly appeared in the lineup and performed when needed, they said. The freshmen received perhaps one of the greatest gifts a young player can get: postseason experience.

Simms said that when he and Woodward were freshmen, they would travel with the team and sometimes pinch-run, but they would hardly go up to bat.

“A few of the freshmen actually got to hit and play,” Simms said. “And, they all play summer ball and stuff, so they’re also ready skill-wise. So, they just need to gel as a team and they can do well.”

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