He was right. And he was ready.
Budnick, a fourth-year varsity senior, got a fastball down the middle and sent a towering drive to straightaway left field that easily cleared the fence at Jackson High School. The two-run home run broke a 2-2 tie and lifted Edmonds-Woodway to a 4-2 Western Conference 4A baseball victory over the host Timberwolves.
It was the Warriors' second win in as many days against Jackson (Edmonds-Woodway won 5-4 in nine innings on Tuesday), and it knocked the T-wolves out of a first-place league tie with Cascade. The Bruins, a 9-4 winner over Kamiak on Wednesday, lead the Wesco South with an 8-1 record, followed by Jackson at 7-2 and Edmonds-Woodway at 6-3.
"It was a great game," said Warriors coach Dan Somoza. "When you play good teams like Jackson, you have to have all phases of the game — pitching, defense and hitting. And I thought we competed hard from the beginning to the end."
Edmonds-Woodway and Jackson will play again on Friday, "and every game is important," Somoza added. "We're trying to get in the playoffs, and then we're playing for seedings and to get us ready for the playoffs. So Friday is another big game."
On Wednesday, the Warriors scored twice in the top of the first inning by combining a walk, an infield error, a single and an infield out. Jackson answered with solo runs in the first and fourth innings, both times by getting the leadoff hitter aboard and then moving him around one base at a time.
But in the fifth, Edmonds-Woodway's Jason Smarr led off with a first-pitch line drive single to center field and Budnick stepped to the plate. He looked at two pitches out of the strike zone, and then launched the third pitch over the fence and into the parking lot.
"He smashed that ball," Somoza said. "I knew it was gone when he hit it."
"My approach up there is to attack fastballs, and that's what I did," Budnick said. "In pro ball pitchers can throw an off-speed pitch for a strike any time. But not a lot of high school guys can do that, so I was sitting on a fastball on a 2-0 count. It was down the middle and I got all of that one."
The home run made a winner out of Warriors starting pitcher Brady Edwards, a right-hander who worked 61/3 innings. Mixing his fastball with a clever curve, he scattered nine hits while striking out two and walking none.
"Brady was just outstanding," Somoza said. "He has confidence to throw that curve at any time for strikes — 2-0, 3-1, it doesn't matter — and it really threw (the T-wolves) off balance. They didn't hit many balls hard off him all day, which is the sign of a good outing."
"I'd say this was my best start," Edwards said. "I had confidence in my defense and confidence in being on the mound."
When Jackson put runners at second and third with one out in the seventh, Budnick was called in relief. He worked the count full on the first hitter, and then nicked the outside corner with a fastball for a called strikeout. The final out came on an infield grounder.
It was, said Jackson coach Kirk Nicholson, "a great game. We made a bad pitch to their best player, and he did what a good player does. He hit it out. But my kids played hard.
"(Edmonds-Woodway) has a bunch of kids who play the game the right way," Nicholson added, "and my kids are learning how to do that, too. We've got a bunch of young guys out there who are learning in the heat of battle. But I feel really good about my kids. I think we're right on track with where we want to be with this club."
At Jackson H.S.
Edmonds-Woodway 200 020 0 — 4 8 0
Jackson 100 100 0 — 2 9 1
Brady Edwards, Tate Budnick (7) and Tate Budnick, Mac McLachlan (7). Kellen Woods, Jacob Bogaz and Alex Kiel. WP—Edwards. LP-Woods. S-Budnick. 2B—Aaron Avalos (J). HR—Budnick (EW). Records_Edmonds-Woodway is 6-3 in league, 8-6 overall; Jackson is 7-2, 9-4.
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