Sunnyside to face Selah this Tuesday
by Michael Kantman
CLARKSTON - When the Sunnyside High School baseball team walked off the field in Selah last year following an opening-round playoff loss to the Vikings, the Grizzly players could be heard saying that they weren't going to take the same early exit next season.
Well, the Grizzlies lived up to their word and have earned one more go-around with the best 3A team in the state, Selah, following a thrilling 4-3 opening round Regional playoff game victory against Clarkston this past Saturday.
The win over Clarkston gives the Grizzlies at least two more shots at qualifying for State. A win over Selah on Tuesday would put the Grizzlies automatically into the Regional championship game on Saturday, earning an automatic trip to State. The loser of Tuesday's Sunnyside-Selah game will face the loser of the West Valley-Yakima vs. West Valley-Spokane game for the third and final spot to State on Saturday. The two teams in the Regional title game earn automatic berths to State.
This past Saturday's game between the Grizzlies, the Mid-Valley League's No. 3 seed, and Clarkston, the No. 2 seed out of the Greater Spokane League, had plenty of drama, most of it provided by Sunnyside's Derek Uberuaga.
"They have some good athletes," said Sunnyside Coach Dave Martinez of Clarkston.
The Grizzlies nursed a 2-0 lead going into the bottom of the third inning, when it started to rain, said Martinez. A misplayed ball in the rain led to Clarkston scoring one run. The Bantams' Stephen Balume, who is going to Washington State University on a full-ride baseball scholarship, then unloaded on a fast ball to blast it out of the park to tie the score.
Martinez said there was then a 30-minute rain delay.
After the rain stopped, the Grizzlies blew a golden opportunity in the top of the fourth, leaving the bases loaded. Martinez said Sunnyside left seven baserunners on board for the day. Clarkston picked up a run in the bottom of the fourth after one of their batters hit a curve ball out of the park.
Trailing 3-2 going into the top of the seventh, Michael Johnson drew a walk for the Grizzlies and then moved into scoring position by stealing second base. Uberuaga, who got out of a couple of jams on the mound in the fifth and sixth innings, drilled a home run to center field on a 1-2 count to give the Grizzlies a 4-3 lead and the eventual victory.
The bottom of the seventh provided some more drama for Grizzly fans. With a Clarkston runner on, Uberuaga and Balume went at it again. Uberuaga walked Balume intentionally in the fifth inning, but none of that would happen this time around. After giving up three balls to Balume, Uberuaga got the Bantam senior to hit into a double play to end the game.
"It was just an exciting way to do it," said Martinez of his team's victory.
Uberuaga also had a big day at the plate going 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs. Uberuaga also got the win on the mound.
Martinez said Uberuaga played outstanding for the Grizzlies on Saturday. The Grizzly skipper also wanted to point a crucial play that took place in the bottom of the second that he felt could have changed the momentum of the contest. With Clarkston runners at first and second, Johnson was able to get a crucial out at the plate thanks that kept the Bantams scoreless.
Martinez said he couldn't be more proud of his team for its win on Saturday.
"We are excited to be playing on Tuesday," said Martinez. "Win one of the next two games and we are going to State."
The Grizzlies are going to attempt to derail the 21-0 Selah Vikings on their home field this Tuesday afternoon. To the Grizzlies' credit, they arguably gave Selah one of its toughest pair of games earlier in the season. Sunnyside also played extremely well in last year's playoff loss at Selah.
"When we played them last time they had five errors," said Martinez. "They are going to try and come out and prove that was a fluke."
Martinez said his team will be ready to go up against Selah.
"The kids who are playing for the Grizz right now are pretty resilient," said Martinez. "I am just so excited for these kids. Everyone has worked so hard."
. Mike Kantman can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 T H E
Sunnyside 1 0 1 0 0 0 2 4 10 1
Clarkston 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 3 8 2
Pitching: Micah Zakahi 4-1/3 eight hits, six strikeouts. Derek Uberuaga 2-2/3 two strikeouts.
Hitting: Nick Uribe 1-for-2. Jessie Ramirez 1-for-2. Michael Johnson 2-for-3. Derek Uberuaga 3-for-4. Tyler Esqueda 2-for-4. Nathan Anderson 1-for-4. R.J. Elizondo 1-for-4.