Welcome to Puyallup baseball Gavin Grant.
With only one at-bat a year ago, the Viking utility player came up big as the sophomore roped a game-winning single into left field to give Puyallup a 7-6 come from behind win over Emerald Ridge in a 4A South Puget Sound League South meeting.
“He (Puyallup coach Marc Wiese) said welcome to Puyallup baseball,” Grant said of his game-winning RBI on full-count. “I’m glad to be a part of it.”
The win pushes No. 1 ranked Puyallup (9-3), according MaxPreps, into sole possession of the top spot with a 4-0 record. No. 4 ranked Emerald Ridge (9-3) falls to a second-place tie with Graham-Kapowsin (5-4) as both teams are 3-1.
It was a big time pitching matchup on paper heading into Emerald Ridge baseball’s meeting with Puyallup under the lights at Heritage Field.
The game wasn’t just a matchup between two of the 4A’s top ranked teams, but a meeting of staff aces.
It was Nate Packard (Emerald Ridge) facing Chris Micheles (Puyallup). But it was the South’s top offenses putting on a display Friday night.
“(Puyallup coach) Marc (Wiese) texted this morning that it was going to be a good game,” Emerald Ridge coach Larry Marshall said.
It was playoff action at its finest as Heritage Field was packed to the brim, attracting people from all-over the area.
“When you give up 6 runs in the second on five errors or whatever it was – you know, we probably didn’t deserve to win today,” Wiese said. “But the reason we won today is because Chris Micheles didn’t give up on the mound.”
But they did win as teams are discovering how difficult it is to get 21-outs on Puyallup this season.
After a pair of walks in the first led to Puyallup scoring in their first at-bats, 2-0, capped by third baseman Ryan Peterson’s single to right, the Jaguar’s offense erupted.
Matthew Benjamin led off the second inning with an infield single, followed by back-to-back singles by Dominik Zombik and Chase Barbre to load the bases with no outs. After striking out Kyle Stueckle, Micheles had the chance to escape the inning.
But then the wheels fell off the Vikings defense.
Emerald Ridge was able score 6 runs on the Washington signee Micheles in the second after 5 errors led helped the Jaguars jump out to a 6-2 lead.
“I had two of those errors, so I was apart of that problem in the second,” Micheles said. “But you just got to realize it’s baseball. I knew my offense could get me (back) six runs. We just had to bear-down and that’s what we did.”
Micheles (5-1) settled down from there as he struck out 9 of the next 17 batters he faced finishing with 10 total strikeouts in seven innings of work.
“Chris was able to settle down after the second, and the team just chipped away,” Wiese said. “He really took command, and didn’t allow the lead to rattle him tonight.”
Puyallup scored two runs over the third and fourth to cut Emerald Ridge’s lead to 6-5. After loading the bases against Jaguars relievers Andrew Curran and Chase McGuire, the Vikings were able to tie the game at 6-apiece when Zack Larson’s bases loaded walk brought in Ryan Teague.
“With Collin Wolf and Michael Spellacy transferring in, I told (Grant) we were going to find a place for him in our lineup,” Wiese said. “He came up big in that final (at-bat).”
After Wolf was caught attempting to steal second, Spellacy roped a single to right, before moving to second after Larson ground in a fielder’s choice.
McGuire intentionally walked Carter Wallace, setting up the showdown with Grant.
With only one strike needed to force extra innings, Grant floated a line drive just out of Jon Rice’s leaping attempt at short to drive in Spellacy from second and give Puyallup the 7-6 comeback win.
“That’s indescribable right there,” Grant said. “We came into this game knowing we’re the best team in this city (Puyallup).”
And they left as the top team in the South.