By Jon Saperstein Herald Writer
ARLINGTON — For 20 outs the Arlington baseball team was better than Oak Harbor Wednesday.
The trouble for the Eagles is that high school games go to 21 outs and the failure to record the final one was the difference in a 6-4 miraculous comeback for the Wildcats in a Wesco North game with postseason implications.
On senior day at Arlington, it looked like the Eagles would get the win they coveted entering the game — one that would have all but assured them a chance to extend their season beyond Monday’s non-league regular season finale with Cedarcrest.
But the Wildcat bats, put to sleep by the Eagles’ Justin Surber all day, awoke and gave Oak Harbor life.
“That was one we needed,” Arlington coach Erik Heinz said after the game shaking his head.
The same could be said for Oak Harbor (6-8 league, 9-8 overall). The Wildcats are now tied in the win column with Arlington (6-10, 7-12), whose Wesco slate is over, and can set their sights on potentially snagging fourth place — coach Tyson Van Dam’s preseason goal — instead of the fifth-place slot that they clinch with one win in their last three games.
“We gave ourselves a chance at least,” Van Dam said. “Without that win we didn’t give ourselves a chance (at fourth).”
The top four 4A teams in the Wesco North advance to the District 1 playoffs. The fifth 4A team goes to a play-in game against the fourth-place 4A team in the South.
After six innings Surber looked to be the hero on the mound for Arlington, just three outs away from a complete-game, five-hit shutout. Kian Mebane opened the seventh with a double for the Wildcats but Surber got the next two batters on routine outs to set up the Oak Harbor heroics.
The next three batters hit Surber’s offerings hard. Sam Wolfe had the big hit with a two-RBI, opposite-field double that made the score 4-3 and chased Surber.
“He threw me a curveball and I was kind of expecting it,” said Wolfe, who batted 3-for-4 with two doubles, a run and a stolen base. “It wanted to go (backside) so I just took it that way.”
After struggling with the experienced Arlington pitcher early, the Wildcats changed their approach in the seventh inning resulting in four hits and four runs.
“He’s a good pitcher but with him you have to go backside,” Van Dam said. “You can’t pull the ball. We tried to pull the ball the first couple times through (the order).”
Carson Zednick, a regular Eagles starting pitcher, came on needing just one out for the save and the first batter bounced to short for what looked like the game ender.
Shortstop Garth Rose took a tough hop off his chest for an error and the runners were safe at first and third. In the ensuing at bat, Pat Higbee worked the count full before roping an RBI single that tied the game and would be the only hit off Zednick, who took the loss despite no earned runs. A catcher’s interference call and the game’s first two walks plated the winning runs and crushed the Eagles.
“Normally (Zednick) starts games for us, but he didn’t throw a lot of pitches last week,” Heinz said. “He’s a guy we trust to get the job done and unfortunately it didn’t happen tonight.”
After retiring the side in order in the first, Oak Harbor righty Gabe Clark never had a clean inning, but the sophomore, who has walked just two batters over 42 innings this season — none Wednesday — hung tough and came out for the seventh with the unexpected chance to get a complete-game victory.
With two outs he gave up his fifth double of the day to pinch-hitter Tyler Wendland but Andrew Thomas, who hit 3-for-4 on the day with a run and two RBI, grounded to second to end the game.
For Arlington it was another one-run loss in a season that seemed full of them.
“Those kinds of games haven’t been our strongpoint,” Heinz said. “We’ve been in a lot of one-run games with everyone. We just can’t get over that hump.”
Should either Oak Harbor lose its last two (both against Lake Stevens) or Cascade lose two of three, the Eagles would still get a chance at the postseason.
The Wildcat win means they control their playoff destiny.
“It means a lot,” Wolfe said. “No one wants to go out losing, playing for the toilet bowl in the end. At least it gives us a chance to feel good about the end of the season.”
At Arlington H.S.
Clark and Farnum. Surber, Zednick (7) and Ward. WP—Clark. LP—Zednick. 2B—Rose (A), Thomas (A), Wendland (A), Pierce (A), Baker (A), Wolfe (O) 2, Mebane (O), Records—Oak Harbor 6-8 league, 9-8 overall. Arlington 6-10, 7-12.