Out or safe?
Instant replays don’t exist in high school baseball, so who knows what could’ve been if the game-ending play at first base that decided the outcome in Timberline’s 1-0 loss to Newport of Bellevue in 9 innings was overturned Saturday at Art Wright Field in the Class 4A regionals.
Or initially called a 1-3 ground out.
When pitcher Zach Owens field a slow-rolling chopper and fired to Tony Ortiz at first base with runners at the corners and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Timberline players and coaches thought the throw beat Newport’s Vinny Guinasso to the bag for the third out to send the game into the 10th inning still scoreless.
Jace Goforth, the runner at third (Owens walked him earlier in the inning), slid home head-first as the first base umpire called Guinasso safe at first for the game’s only run.
Timberline’s players pleaded their case on the call at first base as Newport’s players celebrated Goforth’s game-winning run. So did Timberline coach Mark Rubadue, who rushed from the dugout.
A brief discussion between the umpiring crew followed. Rubadue thought the call would be reversed.
“You could sense it,” he said.
It wasn’t: Newport 1, Timberline 0.
Season over, too, for the Blazers at 16-7 overall, in their first season since jumping up to Class 4A. Newport (22-2) went on to knock off defending 4A champion Puyallup, 7-6, in the regional final to head to the final four of the 4A state tournament at Bellingham’s Joe Martin Stadium.
Rubadue’s message to his team: don’t let the final play define the season.
“We’re disappointed on how it happened,” Owens said, “… but we played a heck of a game.
“It was a good game all around by these guys.”
Owens included. Rubadue called Owens’ pitching performance his best of the season: nine innings, six hits, one earned run, one walk, eight strikeouts, 104 pitches.
He entered the ninth at 87 pitches, including 1-2-3 innings in the seventh and eighth.
“I wanted to go as far as I could and give these guys (my teammates) and these fans what they deserved,” Owens said.
It was a pitchers’ duel all game between Owens and Newport’s Ryan Kingma (six hits, nine strikeouts, zero walks). Lucas Reid, a first-year starting catcher, commended Owens’ command, particularly his slider.
“He was locating everything,” Reid said. “He was spot-on. He was as good as I’ve seen him all year.
“When he steps on the mound, you know something good is going to happen.”
In the ninth, the walk to Goforth on seven pitches was his only free pass of the game. A base hit by Tyler Reese put runners on first and third with two outs for Guinasso, the catcher, who finished 2 for 4 on the day.
Timberline’s best scoring chance came in the eighth. Singles by Taylor Adams and Ryan Conner put runners were at the corners, but an inning-ending pick-off at third base ended the threat.