ANACORTES — The South Whidbey baseball team battled the top seeded Lakewood Cougars into extra innings Monday before losing 6-5 in the first double elimination district playoff tournament.
Cougar coach Larry Delany was taken by surprise.
“They really played much better ball than they did in the third week of the season,” he said. “They’ve beaten some good teams lately and we knew our work would be cut out for us. Dave [Falcon coach Guetlin] has done a great job.”
South Whidbey played Burlington-Edison at 5 p.m. Tuesday in a loser-out contest.
Playing on the immaculate emerald and cinnamon diamond at Archer Daniels Field in Anacortes, it didn’t seem the Falcons had much of a chance at first.
Starting South Whidbey batters Lucas Yale, Robert Kirby and Nick Tenuta were taken out in short order thanks to a first-class effort by Lakewood shortstop Marcus Harkins.
In the bottom of the first inning, the Cougars were clearly loud and proud as they yelled their teammates on. In contrast, the Falcons were grim and silent.
The Cougars scored twice off four hits in the bottom of the first and things seemed grim indeed. In the second inning, it was three up, three down for the Falcons.
The closest the team got to make an impact came in the third inning. With bases loaded and two outs, Lakewood pitcher Jordan Stauffer struck out Mick Poynter.
But Poynter took his revenge moments later at third base, combining with shortstop Robert Kirby and Trapper Rawls at first for a double play.
The Falcons slowly sluffed off their nervousness — for most, this was their first major playoff experience — and Poynter hit a curve ball to double for two RBI’s to tie things up 2-2 in the fourth inning.
The Cougar dugout then got very quiet.
Lakewood scored twice in the fifth, once on a missed catch at home plate and once on a walk and the pressure mounted on Falcon pitcher Jon Adams with the score 4-2.
“I had a few passed balls but that was my fault,” he said. “Aaron [catcher Mannie] was great calling the pitches and Kirby was awesome in the infield.”
At that point, Guetlin brought in relief pitcher Hunter Rawls.
Another run brought the score to 5-2. As the Falcons took over, Guetlin told them to hang in there.
“We’ve got ‘em right where we want them. They’re scared,” the coach yelled.
Suddenly, batter Adam Babcock took a fast ball to the head and the action stopped. Eric Sparks’ mother, Sydney, an Oak Harbor pediatrician rushed onto the field to administer first aid.
“The ball hit his helmet, the helmet hit his head,” she said after a badly-shaken Babcock was sent to the hospital for observation. “That’s why they wear helmets.”
When play resumed, South Whidbey was fired up, scoring two runs at the top of the seventh. Then Trapper Rawls hit a towering double to bring in Tenuta and the game was even at 5-5.
But in the eighth with the bases loaded, CJ Baker was struck out and Lakewood wrapped the game up with a scramble at first base and the winning run.
Yale, Kirby and Tenuta each had two hits for South Whidbey.
As a grounds crew covered up the mound in preparation for the next day’s action, coach Guetlin was upbeat.
“Any time a young team like ours can take the league leader into extra innings, that’s special,” he said. “I’m very proud of them and know we’re going to beat Burlington-Edison tomorrow.”
Yale said his teammates were glad to be there. “We were all pretty excited,” he said. “There was a lot of enthusiasm at the end; it was a winnable game. The coach told us to come out hard but we finished hard.”
Mannie said the team got pumped up after Babcock was injured. “It wasn’t deliberate by their pitcher, but when Adam went down, we wanted to play our best for him,” he said.
The winner of yesterday’s game will move forward, most likely playing Archbishop Murphy to qualify for a state playoff berth.