By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
EVERETT — The Archbishop Murphy baseball team is two wins away from a 2A state championship and the Wildcats continue their quest to win it all today when they face the East Valley Red Devils in the state semifinal at 4 p.m. at Yakima County Stadium.
To get to the title game, the Wildcats will put the ball in the hands of their ace pitcher, Levi MaVorhis. In MaVorhis’ most recent outing, he gave up just two hits and struck out nine as Archbishop Murphy defeated Interlake in the round of 16.
Pitching MaVorhis in the semifinal means that it is unlikely that he would be available for the championship game. Per WIAA rules, if MaVorhis throws one pitch past three innings, then the Wildcats would be unable to use him on Saturday. Archbishop Murphy coach Stan Taloff said if the Wildcats build a big lead early that he would consider sitting MaVorhis to have an opportunity to throw him in Saturday’s championship, but said that was the best case scenario.
If the Wildcats find themselves in a close battle, the game will remain in the hands of MaVorhis.
“You have to get there (the state championship game) to have a chance to win it,” Taloff said.
MaVorhis will likely go head-to-head with East Valley starter Hugo Lemus, who threw a one-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts in the quarterfinals. Taloff said he expects Lemus, who has a fastball in the 80’s, to start.
If Lemus pitches the way he did against Cheney, the Wildcats could be in for a long day, but Taloff said his hitters just need to focus on making good contact.
“The fastballer will supply all the power we need, we just have to make sure we are making solid contact on them,” Taloff said.
If the Wildcats are able to get past East Valley, they would face either Lynden or Sumner in Saturday night’s championship game. This time, the ball would likely go to Derrick Mahlum, who pitched the Wildcats to a win over Burlington-Edison in the quarterfinals. Mahlum has been a key to the Wildcats success recently, but at any sign of trouble, the Wildcats have other capable pitchers they could go to.
“Mahlum has thrown so well,” Taloff said. “We’ve got a couple of other guys that would probably be No. 1 on other teams.”
Taloff said that offensively his lineup has players that can hit for power like MaVorhis, Trever Morrison and Alex Galgano, but that ultimately the team needs to continue what it has been doing throughout the playoffs.
“We’ve been pretty consistent all the way up and down the lineup,” Taloff said. “So much can get accomplished if nobody cares who gets the credit.”
If the Wildcats can somehow win two games, it will be the first state championship of Taloff’s career. Earlier in the season he earned his 500th victory as a head coach. Taloff is optimistic that this could finally be the year.
“I believe that this team is as capable as I have ever coached to win a state championship,” he said.
With that said, Taloff knows that baseball can be fickle.
“We’ve got to continue to play solid and flawless defense,” he said. “The best we can do is to go out and play the game as close to perfection as we can and the rest is going to be baseball.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.