GRANDVIEW - The Sunnyside High School baseball team won a pair of must-win games this past Saturday to capture the Mid-Valley League's fifth and final berth to the District/Regional tournament.
Playing a pair of league tiebreakers against Prosser and Wapato, the Grizzlies were victorious by 6-4 counts in both games. The three clubs all finished 3-9 in conference play, necessitating Saturday's tiebreaker contests at a neutral site, in this case the Grandview High School baseball field.
Sophomore Gibby Briones provided the heroics in the opener against Prosser. Besides picking up the win by throwing four-plus innings of shutout relief, Briones turned in a 3-for-4 effort at the plate. The short, speedy sophomore lashed an RBI single in Sunnyside's three-run third inning, cracked a leadoff double in the fifth and scored to send the game to extra innings, and plated the winning run in the seventh after singling his way aboard.
By ending the Mustangs' season, Sunnyside advanced to play Wapato in yet another loser-out affair. The Grizzlies snapped a 4-all tie with the Wolfpack by plating a pair of runs in the top of the fourth. And not so surprisingly, Briones figured in again. Sunnyside opened the fourth frame with Cameron Boboth drawing a walk. After being sacrificed to second by Nathan Cornelius, Boboth raced home with the winning run when the Wolves misplayed a shot off the bat of Briones. Cole Boboth then singled home Briones to give the Grizzlies a bit of insurance.
The story of the game against Wapato, though, was the performance from the mound by junior Ryan Engel. After the starter, the oldest of the two Boboth brothers, ran into trouble in the third inning, Engel took the hill and shut down the Wolves the rest of the way.
For Engel (1-3), the win was his first of the season, although his first pitching victory of the year should have come a lot earlier.
"Ryan hasn't given up an earned run all season," Sunnyside Coach Dave Martinez said of his closer. The three losses on his record were the result of some untimely errors by his teammates.
It appeared as though the Grizzlies were going to cruise past Wapato easily, when they pushed four runs across the plate in the top of the third. A single by Cornelius got things started, with Joel Zakahi and Zach Marquez following with RBI doubles. Sunnyside closed out the third frame scoring with an RBI single off the bat of senior Timmy Briones.
What looked like a comfortable lead dissipated quickly, however, as the Wolfpack charged back with four runs of its own in the bottom half of the third.
In the process, the Wolves chased starting pitcher Cole Boboth. Engel, throwing nothing but fastballs, took his place and went the rest of the way to pick up the decision, thanks to the two runs his teammates scored in the top half of the fourth.
In Saturday's opening game victory over Prosser, the younger of the two Briones brothers clamped a lid on the 'Stangs once he took the hill in the bottom of the third. Sunnyside's starter, Zakahi, yielded two runs to Prosser in the second frame and was touched for two more in the third before making way for Briones.
"Gibby came in and pitched great," said Martinez. "He mixed up his fastball, change and curve to keep Prosser off-balance." As it turned out, the Mustangs only got two hits off Briones (3-2) in the four and two-third innings he pitched.
Sunnyside (9-12-1) will open the Regional tourney tomorrow (Tuesday) at Hanford High School against the Falcons. Game time is 4 p.m. The winner will move on to play a loser-out game at Spokane this coming Saturday, against the loser of Tuesday's West Valley/North Central contest. A loss to Hanford tomorrow would end the Grizzlies' season.
S'side 0 0 3 0 1 0 2 -6 11 2
Prosser 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 -4 5 3
WP-G. Briones (3-2). LP-Nichols.
Zakahi, G. Briones (3) and Marquez. Nichols and Starkey. Sunnyside highlights: G. Briones 3/4, 2B; Marquez 2/4. Prosser highlights: O'Brien 2/4.
S'side 0 0 4 2 0 -6 7 2
Wapato 0 0 4 0 0 -4 4 4
WP-Engel (1-3). LP-Pitt.
Co. Boboth, Engel (3) and Marquez. Pitt and Rocha. Sunnyside highlights: Co. Boboth 2/3.