4A baseball: Extra-innings hit keeps Puyallup Vikings perfect

t.cotterill@thenewstribune.comMay 14, 2014 

Zach Needham said he didn’t feel his feet touch the ground on his way to second base in the 10th inning.

But they must have because somehow he was there and Darian Clemens was across home plate.

Needham’s two-out double drove home the winning run, kept the Puyallup High School baseball team’s undefeated season intact, and ensured the Vikings a place in the Class 4A state tournament with a 3-2 victory against Gig Harbor on Tuesday at Kent Memorial Park in the first round of the 4A West Central/Southwest bidistrict tournament.

Needham was mobbed by teammates in shallow left-center field after his liner reached the gap in right center.

“It felt like I didn’t touch the ground until second base,” said Needham, who hit a game-winning home run against Graham-Kapowsin earlier this year. “It was just amazing.”

Gig Harbor (14-8) gave the top-ranked Vikings (ranked No. 6 in the nation by USA Today and No. 8 by MaxPreps) their first extra-innings game of the season. Puyallup (22-0) came in having cruised to the 4A SPSL title and outscored its past four opponents 42-5.

Puyallup’s scintillating left-hander Luke Heimlich pitched all 10 innings and threw 127 pitches. He struck out 11.

“Bottom line, Luke Heimlich didn’t allow us to lose today,”

Puyallup coach Marc Wiese said.

Puyallup led 2-0 into the sixth inning, when Gig Harbor scored twice on RBI singles from catcher Mark Sluys and Sterling Brown to tie the game.

“I thought we were still up by one, so I wasn’t worried,” Heimlich said. “Knowing they had tied the game put a little more pressure on it.”

Gig Harbor starter Matthew Henckel allowed only one hit in four innings, but he walked six batters. It was his first start of the season after coming back from surgery on his meniscus.

The Tides’ defense was stellar, including a diving play by center fielder Michael Toglia to end the fourth, and Conor Scanlan pitched five innings of scoreless relief until Needham’s double in the 10th.

“I told them before the game that this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to come here, face a team that is 21-0, ranked No. 1 in the state and give them their first loss,” said Gig Harbor coach Pete Jansen. “They knew they could compete with them, just like we’ve done with everybody all year.”

Puyallup earned an automatic berth to the state playoffs, and hopes this season results in its first state title in the storied program’s long history. It will face SPSL rival Todd Beamer in the bidistrict semifinals on Saturday at Kent Memorial Park. Gig Harbor will face Skyview in the first round of consolation.

“These guys left it on the field tonight, and that’s kind of our motto,” Wiese said. “We showed we can grind it out and, like coach (Mike) Huard always tells me: Good luck and good skill. You need them both.”

Beamer 11, at Union 9: Up next for No. 1 Puyallup is an SPSL South rival, the Titans.

A successful suicide squeeze bunt by Beamer’s Tristan Coppinger with the bases loaded in the seventh inning rallied the Titans from a deficit at Propstra Field in Vancouver, Washington. They play Puyallup in the bidistrict semifinals Saturday.

“We played then tough both times, and our kids are swinging the bat well,” Beamer coach Jerry Peterson said.

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677 t.cotterill@thenewstribune.com @TJCotterill Staff writer Todd Milles contributed to this report.

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