Catcher Kepa Sharpe drove in the Todd Beamer High School baseball team’s second run of the sixth inning, off the Titans’ third double of the inning. Puyallup’s lead was cut in half.
Puyallup left-hander Luke Heimlich allowed more earned runs that inning (two) than he had in his previous 422/3 innings (one).
His response? Heimlich didn’t allow another batter to hit a ball in play. He struck out the next four he faced to secure the Vikings’ 4-2 victory and the 4A South Puget Sound League South Division title Friday at Heritage Park in Puyallup.
“That was me getting fired up a little bit and wanting to show that I own this field,” said Heimlich, who improved to 7-0 with the complete-game victory.
Heimlich had little trouble before the sixth. He retired the first nine batters he faced and struck out 11.
“He’s such a competitor,” Beamer coach Jerry Peterson said of Heimlich, who pitched a complete game in a 3-0 victory against Beamer on April 3. “We were pretty happy with our approach tonight, but he got us again.”
Heimlich is one facet of a Puyallup squad loaded with talent. The Vikings (14-0, 12-0 SPSL) continue their quest toward an undefeated season after entering their showdown with Beamer ranked as the top team in the state.
They also are ranked No. 7 in the nation by USA Today and No. 17 by MaxPreps.
The Vikings’ top four batters drove in all their runs Friday. Shortstop Levi Jordan and catcher Brendan Illies had back-to-back RBIs in the bottom of the second inning. First baseman Quinn Rawson and center fielder Darian Clemens brought home two more in the fourth for a 4-0 lead.
But the Vikings stranded plenty more runners. They loaded the bases with two outs in the first and third innings, but left fielder Owen Breithaupt and second baseman Zach Needham weren’t able to drive any home.
Clemens led off with a double in the third and stole third, but Beamer right fielder Scott Sunitsch threw him out at home on Tyler McDowell’s fly ball.
“You never want to leave the bases loaded early in the game like that, especially not twice,” Puyallup coach Marc Wiese said. “We didn’t score enough runs early in the game, and when you let teams hang around, bad things happen.”
Center fielder Lawyer Braun got Beamer’s first hit off Heimlich in the fourth inning, a single between third and short. Titans starter Taylor Davis followed with another single, and Beamer looked to score off Sunitsch’s two-out liner to left field.
But Breithaupt dived, stretched and snagged the ball before it could land, taking the life out of the Beamer rally.
J.J. Asinas relieved Davis in the fourth inning and pitched three scoreless innings.
Braun hit the first of three doubles in the sixth, and suddenly, in a game Puyallup had controlled since the start, Beamer (10-4, 7-4) was in striking distance.
“Our kids are always up for these guys,” Peterson said. “We aren’t afraid. They were excited for this game, and our kids showed they can play with them.”
Heimlich said he wasn’t concerned about his earned-run average at that point, or that no team had scored two runs on him all season, let alone one inning.
“It kind of got me upset,” Heimlich said. “I just knew I needed to refocus and settle down again. You know about the stats, but it’s not something that bothers you. You just want to make sure your team comes out with a victory.”
It did. And Puyallup also extended its stay in the upper echelon of the rankings.
“We try not to get caught up in that stuff,” Heimlich said. “It’s in the back of our heads and we know everybody comes in wanting to beat us because we are ranked higher than any team in Washington, but every one of us knows we have to bring it. Instead of focusing on where USA Today is ranking us, we are focusing on our own playing ability and knowing we have to come out tomorrow better than we were today.”TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677 email@example.com @Cotterill44