Montesano and Elma are headed for a district semifinal showdown after picking up first-round wins on Monday in the 1A District 4 Baseball Tournament.
Montesano 7, Castle Rock 4
It can be nerve-wracking for a high school student-athlete to suddenly be thrown into the proverbial fire.
Montesano pitcher John Kling found himself in that precarious position in the Bulldogs’ first-round 1A District 4 playoff game against Castle Rock on Monday.
Slated to be the the first reliever out of the bullpen, Kling was thrust into the starting spotlight after projected starter Jackson Busz was unable to go due to a nagging calf injury.
No worries for Kling, who tossed five solid innings to go along with three hits as Monte advanced with a 7-4 win at Olympic Stadium in Hoquiam.
“The game plan was John Kling was going to throw at some point today, we just didn’t think he was going to start,” Montesano head coach Mike Osgood said. “So for John to have to click that light switch on and get into that starter’s mentality, that was big for us. He did awesome.”
Kling sparkled on the mound, holding the Rockets (7-12 overall) scoreless over the first three innings.
The left-hander allowed a run on a single with one out in the fourth before inducing an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Meanwhile, Monte’s offense scored a run in the bottom of the second when catcher Denali Harris was hit a by a Jerry Neighbors pitch with the bases loaded.
The Bulldogs (19-2) followed that up with three runs in the third, all with two outs. Bulldogs outfielder Kaleb Ames – on board with a single – came in to score on Castle Rock’s second error of the inning. Outfielder Christan Olsen then singled to left to drive in Cam Taylor. Olsen then crossed the plate on a double off the bat of Jaxson Wilson for a 4-0 lead.
In the fourth, three straight two-out singles culminated with Kling driving in Ames for a 5-1 lead.
Kling ran into trouble in the top of the fifth with two outs and one on. A four-pitch walk followed by a hit batter loaded the bases for Trevor Rogen, who drew a walk to drive in Castle Rock’s second run of the game.
Trystin Marin knocked in a run when Wilson bobbled a grounder to third, scoring Brady Hamer to cut Monte’s lead to 5-3.
Carter Stennick then walked to force in a run and make it a 5-4 ballgame.
Kling stopped the bleeding by getting Justus LaFever to fly out to Olsen in left field, ending the inning.
With two outs and Wilson on base with a walk in the bottom of the fifth, Harris singled to set the table for Monte’s slugging shortstop Bode Poler.
Poler belted the first pitch he saw off the top of the wall in right field, scoring Wilson and courtesy runner Zach Timmons to give Monte some much-needed insurance at 7-4.
“We just kind of chipped away today. We didn’t really put up the big innings or get a big rally like we have. But I think we had a base runner in every inning but the first,” Kling said. “We didn’t have our explosiveness at the plate, but we were patient.”
Monte reliever John Griffin entered to earn the save, allowing two singles and a walk with two strikeouts in two scoreless innings of work.
Kling allowed four runs – one earned – three hits and four walks with two strikeouts to pick up the win.
“Coach pointed at me and I said, ‘I’m ready to go,’” Kling said when he learned he’d be starting on the hill. “I wanted it. I wanted to throw the whole thing.”
Monte’s pitching staff got plenty of help from the Bulldogs defense despite two errors in the game.
The Bulldogs turned two double plays, including second baseman Josh Wills recording an out at first after a second-inning sac bunt and – while trotting back toward the mound – fired a strike to Wilson at third to pick off Marin, who was off the bag daring Wills to throw over.
Montesano’s defense stepped up to another challenge with one on and two outs in the sixth when Harris threw out Neighbors on an attempted steal of second base to end the threat.
“We’re kind of a resilient group,” Osgood said. “It’s been different guys all season long stepping up and that was the same thing tonight.”
With the win, Montesano advances to the semifinal round where it will face East County Rival Elma with a spot in the district-title game and a state-playoff berth on the line.
Castle Rock 000 130 0 – 4 5 2
Montesano 013 120 x – 7 10 2
WP: Kling (5 IP, 4 R, ER, 3 H, 4 BB, 2 K). LP: Neighbors (5 IP, 7 R, 4 ER, 9 H, 3 BB, 6 K).
Leading hitters: Castle Rock – Stennick (1-3, 2 RBI); Hamer (1-3, R); Marin (1-2); Kerker (1-3, R); Neighbors (1-2); Rogen (0-3, R, RBI). Montesano – Kling (3-4, 2B, RBI); Ames (2-4, 2 R); Poler (1-4, 2B, 2 RBI); Wills (1-4); Olsen (1-1, 2B, R, RBI); Harris (1-1, RBI).
Elma 7, Seton Catholic 2
Elma clutched up for five runs in the top of the eighth inning to beat Seton Catholic 7-2 in a 1A District 4 Tournament game on Monday in Castle Rock.
The Eagles (14-8) took a 2-0 lead after a run in the top of the first on a Gibson Cain single followed by a run in the third when Cain scored on a wild pitch.
But Seton Catholic (13-8) responded when Dalton Woods drove in a pair of runs with a two-out single to center field, tying the game at 2-2.
The game remained tied until extra innings, when the Eagles offense erupted for five runs. Carter Studer led off the frame with a walk followed by a single from TJ Dunlap.
Both Studer and Dunlap then scored on a Grant Vessey bunt, giving Elma a 4-2 lead.
An error on an Ethan Camus bunt allowed Vessey to score for a 5-2 lead.
Later in the inning, RBI singles by Eastin Wright and Brody Palmer put Elma ahead 7-2.
In the bottom of the eighth, Palmer allowed a leadoff single to Teddy Wieczorek before retiring the next three batters – the last two on strikeouts – to secure the victory.
Cain and Wright led Elma with three hits apiece while Vessey went 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBI.
Studer started for Elma and allowed two runs – none earned – on three hits with two walks and three strikeouts in six innings pitched.
Elma advances to face East County Rival Montesano in a 1A District 4 Tournament semifinal game at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Olympic Stadium in Hoquiam.
Elma 101 000 05 – 7 14 2
Seton Catholic 002 000 00 – 2 4 1
WP: Palmer (2 IP, 0 R, H, 2 BB, 2 K). LP: Jack Williams (IP, 5 R, 2 ER, 4 H, BB).
Leading hitters: Elma – Cain (3-5, 3B, R, RBI); Wright (3-5, R, RBI); Vessey (2-4, 2 R, 2 RBI); Studer (2-3, R). Camus (1-4, 2B, R); Alexander (1-5); Palmer (1-1, RBI), Dunlap (1-3, R). SC – Wieczorek (2-4); Woods (1-4, 2 RBI); Nebels (1-3).
Grays Harbor Gulls 1, Twin City FC 0
The Grays Harbor Gulls opened their fifth season with a 1-0 victory over Twin City FC on Monday in Centralia.
The Gulls (1-0) showed signs of rust in the first 10 minutes of play, but began to settle in the game and control possession in the 20th minute.
GHC scored what turned out to be the lone goal of the game when Luis Soto sent a pass to Gabe Arias, who flicked the ball over the defense on a give-and-go to Soto.
Soto outran Twin City defenders and beat the keeper to put the Gulls up 1-0 in the 27th minute.
The second half was more even in terms of possession, with several long stoppages of play due to multiple fouls and bookings.
GHC goal keeper Alexis Garcia earned the clean-sheet shutout despite facing 15 shots and three corner kicks.
“An opening win and clean sheet is always a great way to start the season. We’ve constructed a really strong squad this year,” Gulls head coach Drew Grannemann said. “Hopefully, throughout the season we continue playing our style of gritty, passionate Grays Harbor soccer. If we do that, we’ll be able to add to the win column.”
The Gulls will face Steel United on Sunday, May 21 in Puyallup.
Grays Harbor Gulls 1 0 – 1
Twin City FC 0 0 – 0
First half – 1, Grays Harbor, Soto (Arias), 27th minute.
Second half – none.