The Lake Stevens High School baseball coach had complete faith in his senior-laden team, and when faced with a healthy dose of adversity in the 4A District 1 championship game, those players didn't disappoint.
Christian Gasca singled home Christian Shouman with the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning, just moments after the Edmonds-Woodway Warriors staged an unlikely comeback, and the Vikings claimed the title with a 5-4 victory Thursday night at Everett Memorial Stadium.
Lake Stevens watched a 4-0 lead evaporate in the top of the seventh. But Shouman and Gasca, two of the nine seniors in the Vikings starting lineup, combined to erase the damage and give Lake Stevens the title.
"It's awesome," Anderson said about claiming the district championship. "This is a great group of guys, and all I could think about when they tied it up is that these guys deserve this. We're going to win, I had a lot of confidence.
"They're a fun group," Anderson added. "I've been doing this 28 years and I've never had a group quite like this before. They're real even-keeled, kind of goofy, they're all best friends."
Both teams had already secured berths into the state tournament.
Lake Stevens (22-1) advanced as the top seed from the district and will face the District 3/4 No. 6 seed at 1 p.m. May 19 at Everett Memorial Stadium.
And the Vikings will enter the tournament as one of the favorites to win state.
"I think we can go as far as we can possibly go," Shouman said. "I have full confidence in this team and I have from day one."
Edmonds-Woodway (17-6) advanced as the No. 2 seed from District 1 and will face the District 3/4 No. 2 seed at 10 a.m. May 19 at Kent Memorial Park.
"Lake Stevens is a great team, they threw out the best pitches we've seen all year," Warriors coach Dan Somoza said. "We came back in the seventh, we battled and I'm very proud of my team. We just came out on the short end of this game by a little bit."
Lake Stevens' victory did not come without controversy, however.
The game seemed done and dusted heading into the seventh. Lake Stevens led 4-0, and Edmonds-Woodway had managed just one hit. However, the Warriors mounted a furious comeback in the top of the seventh to tie it, with Jorgen Arneson's two-run double plating the runs that extended the game.
"Obviously we were a little concerned," Shouman said. "But we've come down from stuff like that before. It really just makes me appreciate how strong our team is, that we knew we could do it the whole way."
Lake Stevens had to regroup, and Shouman re-lit the flame when he clubbed a one-out double to the left-field wall. But as Shouman rounded second he collided with an Edmonds-Woodway fielder. After the play was dead, the umpires ruled interference and awarded Shouman third base. Chaos erupted, both on the field and in the stands as the Warriors coaches vehemently argued the call, while both sets of fans loudly added their imput.
"It was a horrible call," Somoza said. "In that type of situation I don't know why he'd call that. But he did, and life moves on. Their guy clutched up and got a base hit at the end, so that's the way it goes."
Indeed, Gasca came through for the Vikings. On an 0-2 pitch he sent a liner to center that landed just in front of center fielder Troy Rheinford, allowing Shouman to score from third with the winning run. There was enough doubt about whether the ball would fall in that Shouman would not have scored from second.
Prior to the seventh the story was Lake Stevens' pitching. Starter Jake Nelson tossed five scoreless innings, striking out six. And though the Vikings held Edmonds-Woodway to just one hit through six innings, both Nelson and reliever Kevin Lanto managed to work out of bases-loaded jams to keep the Warriors off the scoreboard.
At Everett Memorial Stadium
Edmonds-Woodway 000 000 4--4 4 1
Lake Stevens 001 102 1--5 11 3
Jorgen Arneson, Ryan Budnick (5) and Tate Budnick. Jake Nelson, Branden Kelliher (6), Kevin Lanto (6) and Logan Merrill. WP--Nelson. LP--Arneson. 2B--Wade Curtis (LS), Dylan LaVelle (LS), Christian Shouman (LS), Arneson (EW). Records--Lake Stevens 22-1. Edmonds-Woodway 17-6.
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