Austin Whalen changed speeds and changed his luck.
Keeping visiting Olympia off-balance with a mix of fastballs, curves and change-ups, Timberline’s senior righthander came out on top in a 4A Narrows pitchers’ duel with the Bears’ Derek Downey, 2-1, Monday afternoon.
Earlier in the season, Whalen was on the losing end of 1-0 and 2-0 decisions, but this time lifted Timberline (8-6, 4-3 in the 4A Narrows) back over .500 in league play. Whalen went the distance in 79 pitches, holding Olympia to five hits and striking out six.
Downey was nearly as good, matching Whalen’s strikeout and hits allowed totals in a game that lasted only an hour and seven minutes. An unearned run in the fifth put Timberline ahead to stay.
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“Austin was getting ahead of the hitters,” Timberline coach Mark Rubadue said. “He had good stuff with all of his pitches.”
“I was working backwards a lot, starting hitters off with breaking balls,” Whalen said.
Whalen’s one mistake came in the second, when Olympia designated hitter James Gunther drove the first pitch over the far corner of the left field fence for a two-out home run.
“I left a fastball up and in,” Whalen said. “He turned on it.”
Timberline didn’t trail for long.
Cody Kartman led off the Blazers’ half of the second with a line-drive double down the right field line. Downey tried to pick Kartman off second but his throw wound up in center field, and Kartman took third, scoring later on a sacrifice fly by Tucker Stroup.
The go-ahead run came as the result of some crafty baserunning.
After Aaron Furman reached in the fifth on a fielder’s choice, the Blazers’ bench spotted a glitch in Downey’s pick-off move. Furman stole second when the throw to first gave him a chance to get a jump.
He scored when Jay Carlton’s grounder turned into a throwing error.
“Downey’s a very good pitcher, but he wasn’t mixing his looks up today,” Rubadue said.
Whalen became more effective as the game progressed, allowing only two hits in the final four innings and retiring nine consecutive Bears at one point.
“I had a good feeling, I felt the momentum growing,” Whalen said. “It’s great to beat a team ahead of us in the standings. Now we have to go over there and try to do it again on Wednesday (when the teams meet again at Olympia).”
The loss left Olympia (10-3, 7-2) in second place, a half-game behind Gig Harbor.