In 2A? The Sumner High School baseball team reached state five consecutive seasons from 2010-14.
3A? The Spartans reached the state semifinals for the second time in school history last season.
Now let’s try the 4A state playoffs.
Tenth-ranked Sumner used a six-run fourth inning to clinch a trip to the 4A state tournament in its first season in the bigger-school classification with a 6-0 victory against Auburn Mountainview on Wednesday at Heritage Park in Puyallup.
“It’s been different because we haven’t had the target on our backs quite as much,” Sumner coach Casey Adcox said, while also mentioning the 11 seniors his team graduated last year. “And we knew we had to do a good job of being consistent.
“But as the season went on, we started to get that target back a little bit.”
It helped that the Spartans faced a familiar foe – they were in the 3A SPSL with Auburn Mountainview the last two seasons before Sumner moved into the 4A SPSL and AMV into the 4A NPSL Olympic.
And for the second consecutive year, Sumner beat AMV to clinch a state berth, while ending AMV’s season.
Lions coach Glen Walker normally prepares for the end, setting up a speech before the game he might say to his team.
But with the way Auburn Mountainview had been playing, winning eight of their previous nine games and fueled by Seth Wood, the Lions’ expected starting sophomore shortstop who died on April 29 of brain cancer – Walker prepared nothing.
“I had full expectations we were going to go out and we were going to win the game,” Walker said.
Auburn Mountainview left-hander Alex McBee was cruising through three innings, with six strikeouts in a tie game – pushing his season total to 104 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings.
But then Sumner catcher Jake Gehri opened the fourth inning with a shot to the gap for a double and Connor Filleau followed with an infield single.
Grant Sherrod then stepped up and had his looping liner to right field land just in front of diving AMV right fielder Michael Kramer’s glove. The ball rolled past him toward the wall and two runs scored as Sherrod stood up at third with a triple.
But no inside the park home run?
“I haven’t been known for my speed,” Sherrod, a sophomore, laughed.
“It was a high outside fastball. I had been getting beat on that the whole district tournament. I finally made an adjustment hit it to right field. It feels good.”
And the inning continued.
Two errors and three walks allowed four more runs to score and Sumner went through its lineup.
It was more than enough for junior right-hander Kyle VanHout, who pitched his best game of the season in the biggest game.
VanHout pitched the seven-inning shutout, allowing four hits with eight strikeouts and one walk on 94 pitches.
“Dude, he’s been huge for us. He’s been huge,” Sherrod said. “For him to go the distance is really impressive. His fastball had some liveliness to it and his curveball was killer.”
VanHout said he’d been battling and arm injury throughout the season, but was pinpoint with his fastball on Wednesday.
“The moment I stepped on this field I felt the energy from my teammates,” VanHout said. “It just felt good getting it done. First step out here I just felt ready to go.
“I just wanted to come out and show who’s boss.”
Sumner now just plays for state seeding. It will face No. 6 Battle Ground at 10 a.m. Saturday at Heritage Park in Puyallup.
Auburn Mountainview’s season ends at 14-8.
“But if you would have asked me before the season if we would have a chance to get to state … we were one win away,” Walker said. “I didn’t see that.
“The season we had, with all the ups and downs – you saw it, nobody was crying. We all went away with, ‘You know what, we battled.’ We did some great things this year with all that we had going on.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677