Sammamish High pitcher Nathan Aebi could hear the witticism in coach Corey Smith’s tone when he told Aebi — just three outs from a perfect game — his day on the mound was done.
Why would the junior be yanked, cruising with a five-run lead against River Ridge in a Class 2A West Central District winner-to-regional baseball game Saturday with a pitch count that hadn’t reached 60 yet?
Said Aebi: “I was like, ‘No, I’m going back out there.’ ”
And that was that.
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Aebi didn’t get his perfect game, but he did get a one-hit shutout as the Totems earned a 5-0 victory over the Hawks on Saturday at Franklin Pierce High School.
River Ridge’s Thayer Murphy broke up the perfect game, hustling down the line to beat out an infield single and they later drew a walk, but it was all the Hawks could muster against the dominant Aebi.
The Totems topped Franklin Pierce, 14-6, later Saturday in a fifth/sixth-place regional seeding game.
But the day belonged to Aebi, who finished with four strikeouts on 62 pitches against the Hawks, who were seeking their first regional appearance since 2010. He also got help from the defense, inducing eight groundouts and seven flyouts.
While not overpowering, Aebi kept the Hawks off-balance with his curveball. River Ridge coach Chad Arko knew that from the scouting report, and while Aebi didn’t pitch when the Hawks watched Sammamish play in Silverdale on Thursday, his players took as many as 30 curveballs during Friday’s practice in preparation.
“Even as coaches, we were puzzled as for what we could do,” Arko said.
The defensive miscues — five errors — hurt just as badly, including three in the fifth inning when Sammamish’s 1-0 lead turned to 5-0. With the first two batters on base via a bunt single and a walk, a double steal put runners on second and third. A sacrifice fly by catcher Kenny McCormick, a University of Washington commit, scored Mitchell. An error as the throw made its way back to the infield allowed another run to score.
Following a fielding and a throwing error, Jacob Mackie’s RBI double made it a 5-0 game. That was River Ridge starter Ben Maratita’s final batter, exiting after 42/3 innings pitched.
“When you don’t make plays on defense, it gets into the pitcher’s head,” Arko said. “We have to get better defensively.”
The Hawks will have to wait at least another year to try to make their first regional appearance since 2010 as members of District 4 and the 2A Evergreen Conference. The Totems (5-20), meanwhile, will have the fewest number of victories of the remaining 16 teams at state, but their overall record is deceiving as one of two teams in an otherwise 3A-heavy 3A/2A KingCo Conference. Sammamish went winless in league play (0-18) and entered the postseason with one victory — a 12-3 nonleague win over Foster on March 30, but went 4-1 in the 2A West Central District tournament.
Aebi said in spite of their record, big things could be on the horizon.
“We’ve had a lot of close games — it shows that we can play with the 3A teams (in our league),” Aebi said. “We’re not there yet, but we’re definitely on the rise.
“We have a good shot at 2A.”