The game between first-place Decatur and Class 3A defending state champion Auburn Mountainview on Thursday night was about pride.
Not only did the Golden Gators (11-3) come in having defeated the Lions 8-7 in thrilling fashion on Tuesday, but also a win here would secure the South Puget Sound League championship.
But instead it was Auburn Mountainview that found redemption in a 2-0 win to stave off Decatur’s hopes of becoming league champions, at least for another day.
“All we need now is some help from Enumclaw (Friday) and we’ll be back in the driver’s seat,” Lions coach Glen Walker said. “All we have to do now is just focus on (subdistricts).”
Decatur heads into Friday’s game against the Hornets with a half-game lead on Auburn Mountainview as Thursday’s win keeps the Lions (11-4) in the hunt to be co-champions with the Gators. Decatur is guaranteed at least a share of its first league championship since 1999.
“I’m not that disappointed,” Decatur assistant coach John Sugg said on the loss. “Our goal coming into this season was to win the league title. We at least locked up a position as co-champions. ... It’s now just focusing on what’s ahead of us.”
The opposite of Tuesday’s high-scoring affair, Thursday’s game was all about pitching and defense as the Lions’ Joey Cassano was able to outduel the Gators’ Janson Junk.
Auburn Mountainview kicked off the scoring in the top of the first inning after Mason Cerrillo connected with a two-out single, and Jeffrey Morgan and Justin Marsden were hit by back-to-back pitches. Ikaika Nahaku then drove in the first run with a single.
The Lions scored their second run with a sacrifice fly off the bat of Nate Zadow in the bottom of the sixth that scored Morgan and increased the lead to 2-0.
Junk settled down after the first, striking out six in a complete-game performance and forcing Auburn Mountainview to strand seven runners on three hits for the game. The Gators couldn’t capitalize, however.
“Unfortunately the hits didn’t fall for us today,” Sugg said. “We made the contact but they didn’t fall, and they made some really nice plays out there today.”
Cassano finished with four innings pitched with no strikeouts. Reliever Herbie Good picked up a three-inning save after keeping the Gators off the board.
After the game, both teams were already preparing for the tasks they set themselves at the start of the season.
“It’s time to focus on the playoffs and make a deep run again,” Cassano said.
“Last year they knocked us out in (the playoffs) after we made a nice run.” Sugg said. “I’m sure we’ll be seeing them again.”