Brady checked Issaquah on two hits and allowed only one base runner as far as third base in a complete-game shutout that highlighted Cascade's fourth straight victory, all of them in loser-out games.
The team's recent winning streak followed a four-game losing streak that cost the Bruins the Western Conference South title as well as the chance to play for a District 1 title.
But those disappointments hardly mattered on Monday night. By beating Issaquah, Cascade earned a trip to Richland for a 10 a.m. Saturday game against Wenatchee in the program's first state tournament appearance since 2004.
The recent weeks have been "kind of an emotional roller coaster," said Bruins coach Scott Stencil. "But these guys have been really resilient. We've been playing do-or-die games for a week now, and we just keep finding a way to get a win. They just kept fighting."
After dropping its district opener against Monroe a week ago, Cascade had to come back through the consolation bracket to keep its state tourney dream alive. The Bruins beat Snohomish 8-4 with a seven-run eighth inning, overcame a 7-0 first-inning deficit to beat Edmonds-Woodway 14-13, and then topped Kamiak 8-2 to reach the play-in game against Issaquah of the KingCo Conference.
On a sunny but windy night at Woodinville High School, Cascade struck first with a bizarre at-bat from Brady. Leading off for the Bruins, he sent a towering pop-up into short left field that three Issaquah fielders lost in the sun. Brady reached second base and then, seeing third base uncovered, advanced the extra base. He later scored on a sacrifice fly by teammate Michael Mazza.
Cascade tacked on two more in the third. Austin Pinorini scored the first run on a wild pitch and Mazza crossed the plate later in the inning on an RBI single from Ryan Lukas.
Brady seemed to have the game under control in the late innings, but the Bruins made sure with two insurance runs in the sixth. Ky Dye stroked an RBI double to right-center field and Pinorini followed with a run-scoring single to left.
Brady, meanwhile, allowed just a single in the third inning and a double in the fifth. Issaquah's only other base runners reached on a walk and a hit-by-pitch, and Brady ended up retiring the last eight hitters he faced.
"K.J. threw the ball incredible," Stencil said. "He was able to command his fastball, to locate it, to work ahead of their hitters, and then to trust his defense.
"You could kind of see his adrenalin building after we got a couple of runs. Once we got to the third or fourth inning, he just seemed to pump it up even more. He's a competitive kid, and you can't have anybody better on the mound than that in a winner-to-state game."
"I felt like I did pretty good," Brady said. "There were maybe some areas I could've done better, but overall I can't be (unhappy)."
This year's trip to the state tournament completes a remarkable turnabout for the Bruins, who were just 3-17 two seasons ago and then went two-and-out at last year's district tournament.
"It's really all about them," Stencil said, referring to his players. "It's exciting for me, too, but it's the work they've put in that's important."
And even though the Bruins took the long route to the state tournament, their goals for the coming weekend -- and hopefully the next two weekends -- are unchanged.
"If it's not to win a state title, then we shouldn't be here right now," Brady said. "We're just trying to get as far as we can. And if we keep playing good ball, hopefully we can get there."
At Woodinville H.S.
Cascade 102 002 0--5 10 0
Issaquah 000 000 0--0 2 1
KJ Brady and Michael Mazza. Ty Gibson, Ryan Peart (6), Drew Doxsie (7) and Kyle Thomas. WP--Brady. LP--Gibson. 2B--Brady, Ky Dye (C), Thomas (I). Records--Cascade 18-7 overall. Issaquah not reported.
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