LAKE STEVENS — As every baseball coach knows, how much you hit is not nearly as important as when you hit.
So it was for Lake Stevens on Friday afternoon. And so it wasn’t for Snohomish.
The visiting Panthers outhit Lake Stevens, but scattered their six hits throughout the game. The Vikings, meanwhile, bunched four of their five hits in one inning along with a walk and an infield error, batting around, and the result was a three-run second that was the difference in a 3-1 victory on a sunny and later rainy day at Lake Stevens High School.
Of course, outstanding pitching from Vikings starter Branden Kelliher and reliever Nick Hoskins was a big factor, too. Kelliher held Snohomish scoreless while giving up four hits in 51/3 innings, striking out nine and walking four. The senior right-hander, who will play next season at the University of Oregon, closed three of his five full innings with strikeouts, and the other two innings he got the final outs with a double-play grounder and an infield pop-up.
“When Branden’s on, he’s unhittable,” said Vikings catcher Matt Del Fante. “Hands down, no high school kid can hit him, and I think we saw that today. When he got in his groove, he was throwing strikes and people were guessing on his pitches. … I thought he looked great.”
When Kelliher began to struggle in the sixth — Snohomish loaded the bases with one out — he gave way to Hoskins, who retired the last two hitters of the inning. The Panthers finally put two hits together in one inning in the seventh to score their only run, but Hoskins nailed down the save by retiring the final two batters.
It was Lake Stevens’ second win against Snohomish this week, following a 1-0 decision on Wednesday.
“Our pitching is what we’re known for, and they showed it again today,” Del Fante said. “One earned run in the last two games. Really, it’s outstanding. Every single team struggles (offensively) against us.”
“I knew our pitching was going to carry us (this season),” said Lake Stevens coach Rodger Anderson. “I thought we’d be scoring more runs … but I’m happy with where we’re at right now. It’s like I just told the guys, we’ll take two wins during our spring break against Snohomish any day.”
The second inning was decisive for the Vikings, and it started in the top half when Kelliher fanned the side. He then led off the bottom of the second by working a leadoff walk against Panthers starter Ben Dmochowsky, with teammate Joey Palmieri following with a sharp single to right.
Skyler Swords had two chances to bunt — he took a called strike and then fouled off the next pitch — before bouncing a single into left field to load the bases. An infield error allowed the first run to score, and two outs later leadoff hitter Justin Brown dropped a soft line drive into left for two more runs.
As it turned out, the Vikings had just one more hit the rest of the game. They loaded the bases in the fifth on two walks and a hit batter, but failed to score.
As for Snohomish, it had base runners in every inning but one, and two or more runners in four innings, but managed just one run. The Panthers stranded nine runners.
“I thought we swung the bat pretty well,” said Snohomish coach Kim Hammons. “We had some pretty good at-bats, we hit the ball hard and we had guys on base. But right now we’re just in a funk where we’re not getting a clutch hit.”
Snohomish designated hitter Brad Morgan probably hit the ball harder than anyone in the game with a long, towering fly to right field in the seventh that was caught just in front of the fence.
“That ball was tagged,” said Hammons with a wry smile. “Maybe if he hits it down the line (it gets out), and maybe on another day it carries a little bit (more). But that ball was hit hard.”
“For the most part I really like my team,” he added. “They’re really doing a nice job and they’re good kids. We’re just not getting the clutch hits that you have to have in this game.”
At Lake Stevens H.S.
Snohomish 000 000 1 — 1 6 1
Lake Stevens 030 000 x — 3 5 1
Dmochowsky, Mulholland (3), Rizzo (5) and Bullock; Kelliher, Hoskins (6) and Del Fante. WP—Kelliher. LP—Dmochowsky. Records—Snohomish is 3-3 in league, 6-3 overall; Lake Stevens is 4-0, 6-2.