Cursed early by the fickle nature of the batted ball, the Timberline Blazers scored four times with two outs in the fifth inning to record a 5-2 non-league baseball victory over the crosstown rival North Thurston Rams on Friday.
“We’re not a team that’s going to beat you with a lot of home runs,” Blazers coach Mark Rubadue said. “But we’re going to keep battling and battling.”
That’s why the bottom of the first inning stung Timberline.
After Josh Congdon had given the Rams a 1-0 lead with a single to score lead-off hitter Noah Murski in the top of the inning, Timberline loaded the bases and got one run when Tucker Stroup drew a bases-loaded walk from North Thurston ace Jake Harn.
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Blazers starting pitcher Aaron Furman did his best to help his own cause, cracking a line drive the opposite way that might have found its way into the right field corner, but North Thurston first baseman Griffin Peppley instead turned the ball into an unassisted double play.
In the second, Timberline set the stage for a possible two-out uprising when Caleb Beard, who would later pitch two shutout innings to get the win, and Austin Brown both singled. Lead-off batter Chris Larson got almost all of the next pitch but it settled into the glove of Rams center fielder Ethan Connelly in front of the warning track.
“We hit the ball really hard, but sometimes that doesn’t matter,” Rubadue said.
With the Blazers’ luck running low, the Rams took advantage and grabbed a 2-1 lead in the top of the third when catcher Tyler Parchem doubled into the gap in right-center field to score Murski from second.
North Thurston’s one-run lead seemed safe until Timberline broke loose in the fifth inning. After retiring the first two batters of the inning on routine ground balls, Harn, who threw 96 pitches on the day and shut the Blazers out over a 4 1/3-inning span, fell victim to the same late-inning offense that had earlier bitten Timberline.
The Blazers’ Larson hit a ground ball that found its way onto the right field grass. Ben Whitt followed with a walk before Lucas Reid doubled to left on an 0-2 pitch to score the tying run and bring Thomas Brice in to pitch for the Rams (4-5).
After an error allowed two more Blazers to score, Stroup drove in the fourth with a line-drive single to center.
Left-handed, breaking ball specialist Donavyn Velez-Fucal came in to pitch for Timberline in the sixth and finished things off with a two-inning, four-strikeout save.
Rubadue gave his Blazers four days off from practice heading into spring break after the victory.
“It was a good day. We beat a crosstown rival, and you never want to lose to a crosstown rival,” he said. “We saw the number one pitcher from a good program. That teaches you how to compete. I’d much rather play a strong team like North Thurston than someone we end up beating easily.”
Timberline (6-4) won’t play another game until Friday, when it travels to meet a strong Class 2A team in Tumwater (4-1), a final tune-up before returning to 4A Narrows play, where the Blazers are tied with Olympia for second place, a half-game behind Gig Harbor.
Timberline’s next four league games are two against Gig Harbor and two versus Olympia.
“We’re in a really good league,” Rubadue said. “We could lose to anybody, but we’re capable of beating everybody.”
North Thurston 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 – 2 4 1
Timberline 1 0 0 0 4 0 X - 5 9 0
WP – Caleb Beard ( 0R, 1K) Save – Donovan Velez-Furcal (0R, 4K). LP – Jake Harn (5K). NT – Noah Murski (1-2, 2R), Tyler Parcham (1-2, 2B, RBI). T – Ben Whitt (2-3, 2R), Lucas Reid (2-3, 2B, RBI), Tucker Stroup (1-2, 2RBI),