MEDICAL LAKE – On the plus side, Sunnyside Christian made it as far as the 1B State quarter-finals. That’s the furthest a Knights baseball team has ever advanced into the playoffs.
On the minus side, Sunnyside Christian found it to be tough sledding last Saturday. The Knights ran into a buzz-saw in the likes of the Colton Wildcats, who shut the door on Sunnyside Christian to the tune of a final 19-0 score.
The loss ended Sunnyside Christian’s season, leaving the Knights with an overall record of 17-5.
Third-year Coach Tyler Alseth said obviously, his club wasn’t all that happy with Saturday’s State quarter-final outcome.
“It’s not exactly what we had envisioned,” he joked.
But in looking back at the entire season, even back to the last two or three years, Alseth said he couldn’t be much happier with the progress his players have made on the diamond.
In reviving the baseball program at SCHS during the spring of 2012, Alseth’s club finished at 7-10. Last season his team pieced together a 10-9 record. Both of those teams finished their seasons by dropping first-round District tournament games.
“This year at Districts we were much more relaxed. We had been there before, and that previous experience, it showed in us getting the two wins for the District title,” he said.
Alseth said with an appearance in this year’s State tournament, the hope is that the next time the Knights make it that far in the playoffs, they’ll be much more comfortable on the big stage than they were last weekend.
“Even with Saturday’s loss, it was a great year for our kids,” said Alseth. “Especially for the seniors who have been with us for a while.
“This season the kids expected to win.
“Our goal was to make it to State, and they achieved that goal. They did it by working hard in practice all season long.”
Saturday’s game against Colton was one of two State quarter-final contests staged in Medical Lake.
The Wildcats and Sunnyside Christian fought to a scoreless stalemate through the first two innings, but in the top of the third the Colton club erupted for 10 runs. Three errors by the Knights, a couple of free passes via walks and a five-hit explosion by the ‘Cats fueled the outburst.
In the process Colton chased Sunnyside Christian’s ace, senior hurler Wyatt Hoff. He absorbed the loss, his first of the season, after stringing together eight consecutive victories this spring.
Alseth turned to his No. 2 pitcher, Brandon Moore, who eventually got the Knights out of the third. Moore pitched into the fifth, before Colton lit off a few more fireworks. By the time the ‘Cats were done swinging the bats that frame, which included knocking around relief pitchers Brant Bosma and Justin Faber, they tacked on another nine runs.
In contrast, Colton pitcher Dalton Patchen crafted a gem of a performance. He went the distance in the shortened five-inning game, yielding only one hit and one walk while fanning eight Sunnyside Christian batters.
“He had a decent fastball, not all that over-powering, but a really good curve. He mixed the two pitches up pretty well against us,” said Alseth.
The one hit the Knights mustered came in the bottom of the fourth, a single off the bat of Hoff.
“Actually, it looked like we had something going there in the fourth,” Alseth said.
Luke Wavrin opened the inning by drawing a walk, which was followed by Hoff’s single-base hit. Sunnyside Christian then loaded the bags when Ian Heffron beat out a third strike that was mishandled by the Colton catcher. Unfortunately for the Knights, Patchen bore down and induced a fielder’s choice grounder, then struck out the next two batters to get the Wildcats out of the jam.
In looking ahead to next season, the Knights will retake the field minus five of their players, all seniors set to graduate in a couple of weeks.
“But, we have nearly half our starters back, and a promising group of freshmen,” said Alseth.
He has put together a 16-game summer schedule for the Sunnyside Christian bunch, and is counting on those contests to provide the new Knights nucleus with some needed on-field experience.
“Hopefully, by next spring, we’ll just keep moving in the direction we’ve been headed the last couple of seasons,” Alseth said.