By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
EVERETT — Backs to the wall for the second straight weekend, Bellevue Community College continued a late-season surge with two wins against Edmonds CC on Sunday, 6-5 and 8-5, to win the North Region baseball tournament and earn a spot in next week’s NWAACC championships in Longview.
The Bulldogs, with a handful of Snohomish County products on their roster, needed to win twice on Sunday to keep their season alive. Edmonds, which reached the final day of the double-elimination tournament undefeated, had to win just one.
But Bellevue built leads in both games, and then held off ninth-inning rallies by the Tritons that brought the tying run to the plate with two outs in the first game and the winning run to the plate with no outs in the second game.
Bulldogs relief pitcher Cody Culp, who played at Anacortes High School, recorded saves in both games, and the second set off a jubilant celebration among the Bulldogs.
“This is amazing,” said outfielder Trai Patrick, one of three Jackson High School alums on the Bellevue roster. “We knew it was loser-out (on Sunday), but the whole moral … of this tournament was just to play relaxed and play the game we know we’re capable of.”
Bellevue was in danger of not even making the playoffs a week ago. The Bulldogs went into the last weekend of the regular season in fourth place with a 10-10 division record and then lost the first of a four-game series against Skagit Valley, putting their postseason hopes in peril.
But Bellevue won the next three games to take third place in the final division standings before losing to Edmonds in their regional opener. To reach the NWAACC championships, the Bulldogs would have to win their next four games.
Which is exactly what they did.
Bellevue beat Everett 8-5 on Friday afternoon to eliminate the top-seeded Trojans, defeated Skagit Valley 6-1 on Friday night, and then swept a pair from Edmonds on Sunday.
Patrick started both games and was 1-for-5 in the opener with a double and two runs scored, and 0-for-3 in the second game with a run scored and a fine running catch in left field.
Also starting the second game for Bellevue was Anthony Flatt, a sophomore first baseman who was 1-for-4 with a run scored.
“This is pretty special,” Flatt said. “We didn’t think we were going to get to this point at the beginning of the year, but we just got rolling as a team. … It’s like we’ve said all year, we’re going to catch fire at the right time.”
For the Tritons, meanwhile, it was a heartbreaking end to a tournament that began so promisingly. After opening with wins against Bellevue and Skagit Valley, they needed to win just one of two Sunday games to reach the NWAACC championships in Scott Kelly’s first season as head coach.
The Tritons never led in either game against Bellevue, but they were never far behind either. A timely hit or two could have turned both games around.
“We got that (clutch) hit all year,” Kelly said. “I think we’ve had seven walk-off wins, which is a credit to these kids. But give (Bellevue’s) pitchers credit. We can say that we missed hits, but I think it’s more a situation where they just made great pitches in tough situations. Their pitchers battled all day.”
Third baseman Jonny Variano, who played at Archbishop Murphy High School, had a big game for Edmonds CC in the nightcap, going 4-for-5 with a double, a run and three RBI.
The Tritons were a perennial NWAACC contender under former coach Brad Ditter, and Kelly expects the program to remain at a consistently high level going forward.
“We’re excited about our future,” he said. “We’re excited about our recruits, we’re excited about our freshman (who will be sophomores next season). … I’m excited as heck to be here and I’m going to be here a long time, so hopefully we’re in this position again a lot more times than not.”
Everett, meanwhile, will also advance to the NWAACC tournament by virtue of its North Region regular-season title. The Trojans, who slipped to 34-9 with their two regional defeats, will open against Treasure Valley at 7:35 p.m. Thursday.
Bellevue, 30-18, will take on Yakima Valley in its first game at 12:35 p.m. Thursday.
At Everett Memorial Stadium
Bellevue CC 120 120 000 — 6 10 2
Edmonds CC 001 101 002 — 5 9 5
Dustin Doucette, Cody Culp (8) and Ryan Malone; Jimmy Schmidt, Austin Taylor (5) and Jeff Beckman. WP—Doucette. LP—Schmidt. 2B—Aaron Stroosma (B), Trai Patrick (B). HR—Carl Svanevik (E) 2.
Bellevue CC 130 000 103 _ 8 11 3
Edmonds CC 010 020 101 _ 5 10 2
John Bodenhamer, Steven Johnson (4), Cody Culp (9) and Ryan Malone. Zach Johnson, Andrew Kemmerer (3), David Reynolds (9) and Kyle Olson. WP—S. Johnson. LP—Z. Johnson. 2B—Sheldon Stober 2 (B), Max Brown (B), Jordan Richartz (B), Jonny Varriano (E), Kyle Olson (E).