PASCO — It usually takes your best game to reach the championship of the 4A baseball state playoffs.
And Puyallup senior ace Matt Becker was masterful on the mound in beating perennial semifinalist Richland, 1-0, in Friday’s state semifinals at Gesa Stadium. The Vikings will face Kentwood in today’s final. The Conquerors eliminated Todd Beamer, 8-5.
Becker limited the Bombers to just four hits and worked his way around three errors.
“He’s been like that for us all year,” said Puyallup coach Marc Wiese. “He got us here, and he’s given us a chance to win a state title.”
Puyallup, which lost to Richland, 4-3, in the 2009 championship, scored the only run in the top of the seventh, when Quinn Rawson led off with a clean double to right.
Pinch runner Trevor Charest took over at second, moved to third on Darian Clemons’ bunt and came around on Tyler McDowell’s fly to center.
McDowell’s RBI came after an eight-pitch at-bat and capped a busy day for the left fielder, who made a diving catch to end the first inning.
The Vikings escaped a jam in the sixth, with a runner on first and nobody out. Becker got cleanup hitter and pitching counterpart Mason Hilty to chop back to the mound for the second out, and second baseman Evan Peterson stayed with a hot-shot grounder to end the threat.
Richland got a runner to second with one out in the seventh, but a pair of easy fly balls quashed the rally and sent Puyallup back to the title game.
The Conks (25-2) and Vikings (22-5) play at 7 p.m. Beamer (18-7) and Richland (21-6) play for third at 1 p.m.
TODD BEAMER FALLS
Runs were easier to come by in the other semifinal.
Kentwood cobbled together four runs in the fourth and fifth innings with the help of two big errors, leading the Conquerors over Todd Beamer.
Kentwood also turned in the biggest defensive play of its game in the fifth inning on a Titans mistake after a squeeze bunt for a potential tying run turned into an inning-ending double play when the bunt was popped up to catcher Reese McGuire.
“That was definitely the turning point in the game,” Kentwood coach Mark Zender said after the win over the Conks’ South Puget Sound League neighbor. “Baseball at any level is an emotional game, but especially at the high school level. For Beamer, that was a killer.”
The Titans jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second, thanks in part to Jarred Prather’s two-run double in the first.
But the Conks got all three back in the bottom of the second – Kade Kyrzsko’s two-run triple being the big blow – and ace Skyler Genger gutted his way through four-plus innings.
Kentwood took the lead in the fourth on an outfield throwing error and an RBI single from Genger. Beamer threatened to get it back in the top of the fifth, but the popped-up bunt killed that threat.
The Conks scored two more in the fifth thanks to another Beamer mistake. A botched throw on a sacrifice bunt allowed one runner to score from first and put the bunter on third, an easy RBI for Tanner Wessling’s sacrifice fly and a three-run lead, more than enough momentum for the final two innings.