Mix a cross-town rivalry into a battle for postseason seeding and the Black Hills baseball team had plenty of motivation Monday evening.
“There might have been more at stake if it was for the championship,” Wolves coach Todd Venable said. “But this was big.”
Black Hills routed host Tumwater, 12-2, to avoid what Venable called “an uphill battle” in District 4 play.
The win sends Black Hills (9-10, 3-6 2A Evergreen) into the District 4 tournament as the 2A Evco’s No. 3 seed. The Wolves play their regular season finale Wednesday against Kelso then wait for a first-round district game at the Greater Saint Helen’s League’s No. 2 seed next Tuesday.
On the other hand, Tumwater (9-8, 3-6) will host Aberdeen, champion of the 2A/1A EvCo, on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. for the right to host the GSHL’s No. 5 team on Saturday.
Black Hills’ win Monday gave the Wolves a 2-1 season series advantage over Tumwater and the tiebreaker in the league standings. Two weeks ago the Wolves pounded the T-Birds 11-1.
Left-hander Zach James started both games and baffled Tumwater each time with a variety of off-speed pitches. On Monday, James went 5 1/3 innings, allowing just three hits and striking out six. Eric Jordan closed it out with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless ball. Neither gave up an earned run.
“Zach’s out there throwing a variety of slow and slower,” said Venable. “He’s not afraid to pitch to contact and let his defense make plays.”
“I try to throw a lot of strikes, get ground balls for our fielders,” he said. “I use a lot of curve balls and change my arm angle so they don’t see it as well.”
With James shutting the T-Birds out for the first three innings, his teammates jumped out to a 7-0 lead before Tumwater finally scratched out a run thanks to two errors and a balk in the fourth.
“Offense has been the strength of our team all season,” said Venable. “What else really helps is when the guy on the mound is pitching fast, getting quick innings and bringing us back up to hit.”
James needed only 44 pitches to get through the first four innings.
Ethan Loveless scored an early go-ahead run, dashing home on a first-inning wild pitch and the floodgates stayed open. Black Hills totaled 14 hits.
Second baseman Nate Brosio had the biggest offensive day for Black Hills, going 3-for-3, scoring three times and driving in another run. Austin Parr drove in three total runs with singles in the fourth and seventh inning.
Tumwater , which started a lineup reflecting its Senior Day, did not have an extra base hit, settled for singles by Nathan Walter, Jarid Barett, Michael Wager and Logan Hayes.
Black Hills 1 2 0 4 3 1 1 – 12 14 2
Tumwater 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 - 2 4 5
WP – Zach James (5 1/3 IP, 6K, 3H). LP – Joseph Brascher. BH – Nate Hutson 2-5 (2R, RBI), Austin Parr 2-5 (3RBI), Milo Ames 2-4 (RBI), Alex Bowden 1-3 (2B, RBI), Nate Brosio 3-3 (3R, RBI), Tanner Ivie 1-4 (2B, R, RBI). T – Logan Hayes 1-1.