When Gig Harbor High pitching coach Larry Carlson handed left-handed junior Michael Toglia the ball in the third inning, Toglia knew he was going to win the game against Kentwood in the Class 4A state quarterfinals.
“I looked him in the eye and said, ‘It’s over. I got this,’” Toglia said.
His confidence was not misplaced. Over the next four frames, Toglia gave up one hit and no runs to Kentwood, guiding Gig Harbor to a 1-0 victory at Heidelberg Field on Saturday afternoon.
“I was feeling good, I had the adrenaline running,” Toglia said. “I felt ready to go.”
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All he needed was a little run support. Despite dominating on the mound, Gig Harbor struggled to generate much offense against Kentwood pitcher Chris Hastings, who was determined to outduel Toglia.
That was until Gig Harbor senior first baseman Grant Sutton got a hold of a first pitch changeup in the top of the seventh inning, rocketing the ball over the left field fence and giving Toglia the only run he would need to close out the game.
“(Hastings) was throwing a lot of junk, curve and change the whole game, and I just wanted to sit back,” Sutton said. “I think I was a little ahead of it. In my mind, I just wanted to get a good piece on it and I did.”
Toglia was happy his effort wouldn’t go to waste.
“It was a huge relief to get that monkey off our back,” Toglia said. “Their pitcher was good, he was keeping us off balance. He pitched well. Grant came through with a clutch home run.”
Toglia was giddy after the game, saying it’s the most excited he’s ever been. The Tides defeated University (Spokane Valley) earlier in the day, 3-0, with senior Matthew Henckel giving up only two hits in no runs. Henckel and Toglia combined for 14 innings of no-run baseball.
Kentwood coach Mark Zender said he had to tip his cap to Toglia, and to Sutton, who hit a good pitch out of the park.
“It wasn’t even a mistake,” Zender said. “It was a change-up away, down in the zone. We’re not really sure how he made that kind of contact, honestly. You just have to give their kid credit. Our kid made a great pitch; sometimes the batter just does a great job and you’ve just got to tip your cap to them.”
Zender was impressed with Toglia and happy with his team’s approach at the plate, noting they hit several balls hard — just right at defenders.
“(Toglia) did a great job,” Zender said. “He mixed speeds and location and he pitched. He wasn’t overpowering. We squared up a lot of balls today. I don’t know how many we hit hard, right at them, deep into the outfield. All day long. If you can get your team to do that against a good pitcher, you’re going to win 95 percent of the time. The ball just wasn’t falling for us. They’re a good team. They just got the right one at the right time.”
HENCKEL THROWS GEM AGAINST UNIVERSITY
Senior Matthew Henckel didn’t need to use all of his pitches on Saturday morning against University High School when his fastball and change-up were working so well. Henckel limited University to just two hits and no runs over seven innings of work. The offense did enough to give Henckel a cushion as the Tides won, 3-0, in the first game of the day at Heidelberg Field in Tacoma.
“Just like every other game, I established my fastball,” Henckel said. “And today my change-up was working really well for me. I think I only threw my slider like three times, my curveball a couple times. I was working off that ... it was good.”
University’s hitters hardly squared up any balls.
“I was just changing speeds, in and out, changing eye levels, and it worked out,” Henckel said.
Gig Harbor coach Pete Jansen was impressed with what he has come to expect from his senior ace.
“You don’t have to strike out a lot of guys to be a dominant pitcher,” Jansen said. “You saw a lot of the balls were weakly-hit line drives, little pop-ups.
Gig Harbor will face Newport of Bellevue on Friday at Joe Martin Stadium in Bellingham in the Class 4A state tournament semifinals.