Some of the things that transpire at Bonney Lake High School baseball game these days …
Postgame karaoke over the loudspeakers.
A senior tickled almost to death by a mob of teammates on senior night.
Break … err … rake dancing.
Bonney Lake coach Mike Olson burst in laughter.
“That’s just their personality,” Olson said. “It’s been building. It doesn’t just start off like that.”
It’s been building because a lot of fine baseball.
Matthew Gretler and Robby Pogue combined to go 6-for-7 at the plate with five RBIs and pitcher Kaiden Hammond was his typical dominant self as he tossed a two-hit shutout in the seventh-ranked Panthers’ 7-0 win against Spanaway Lake on Friday to all but seal the 3A Pierce County League title.
Bonney Lake (13-2; 10-1 3A PCL) now leads Spanaway Lake (8-4; 8-3) by two games in the standings with three games remaining, including another matchup against the Sentinels at 4 p.m. Monday.
Though the Panthers can clinch at least a share of the league title with a win over Lakes at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Gretler, an Oregon State University commit, was untouchable. Not only did he reach base in all four of his at bats, going 3-for-3 with a walk, he flashed a bit of all his tools.
The junior shortstop led off the game with a double over the center fielder’s head and scored on Pogue’s double a batter later. He flashed his speed the next at-bat when he walked and stole second base, one of his two steals, before Adam Fahsel drove him in with an RBI single.
He flashed some power his final at-bat. He hit his third home run of the season (after six last year) when he rocketed a hanging changeup way over the fence in left field for a two-run shot.
“I was looking for a ball elevated and that’s what I saw, so I turned on it,” said Gretler, whose older brother, Michael, is playing for Oregon State. “I knew I had to get all of it, which I did.”
Spanaway Lake coach Todd Keister had just replaced his starting pitcher Justin Newsome, to give Gretler and the lethal top of Bonney Lake’s batting order a different look.
Gretler entered the game with a .475 average and team-highs in hits (19) and doubles (7) to go with 11 RBIs as the everyday leadoff hitter.
“Gretler is one of the best hitters I’ve seen in a long time in this area,” said Keister, who annually played against all those potent Puyallup teams in the 4A SPSL before the Sentinels joined the 3A PCL this year.
“We threw curveball first pitch to him and probably should have kept going to it. But I tip my hat to the kid. He’s impressive.”
It was just the kind of breakout day Olson was looking for out of his lineup with the sun finally deciding to show up. Gretler and Pogue combined for six of the Panthers’ eight hits.
He’s frequently referred to the two as the heart and soul of the team.
“How could you get tired of talking about those guys?” Olson said. “Those guys are awesome! They’re great kids and they come to work every single day. They’re talented, but we make sure that we don’t take that for granted and we realize that they are good not just because they are talented, but because they do things right. And they do things every single day and they build habits. I’ll talk about them every day for the rest of my life and I’ll be a happy guy.”
Spanaway Lake is still not out of the title chase.
The Sentinels will just need some help from either Lakes or Lincoln and need to bounce back with a win over Bonney Lake on Monday.
But Keister thinks of where this program was just as he entered it four years ago – it once underwent 56 consecutive losses (with most by 10 runs or more) and haven’t had a winning season since 1985, he said.
This is the most wins the program has had, already, since 2003. And there’s still four games remaining in the regular season, including a nonleague season finale against Graham-Kapowsin.
“From where this program has been, I can’t ask for more,” Keister said. “These kids have been buying into what we’re wanting to do. Our biggest thing is getting guys on base, getting guys over and getting guys in. We want to put pressure on teams, steal bases and make pitchers make mistakes.”
Except Hammond wasn’t making any mistakes.
He didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning and struck out seven batters, while walking two.
“I was kind of thinking, ‘Have I given up a hit yet?’ And I started to think about it in the fifth inning, which you’re not supposed to do as a pitcher,” Hammond said. “That means you’re just going to jinx it.”
He retired the next three batters in order.
And now Bonney Lake, the reigning 3A SPSL champions, in in the driver’s seat for the first league title in this newly reformed 3A PCL – which includes some teams from last year’s 4A Narrows, 3A Narrows, 4A SPSL and 3A SPSL.
“I feel like the difference today is our guys are more comfortable being there because they’ve been here before,” Olson said.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677