By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
ARLINGTON — Snohomish head baseball coach Kim Hammons didn’t want a wrestling match to break out during a baseball game, so he kept star pitcher Russell Crippen in Tuesday night’s game even when it went to extra innings.
The Panthers needed nine innings to beat Arlington 4-3 and Crippen pitched every one of them.
“I think if I would have tried to take him out of the game, we probably would have had a wrestling match out there, because he didn’t want to leave,” Hammons said.
Letting the game rest with Crippen worked out just fine for Snohomish. After giving up three runs in the first inning, Crippen settled down and held the Eagles scoreless the rest of the way. In nine innings, he gave up just three hits and walked two.
“Russell didn’t have his best stuff (early) and then he gradually started getting stronger and stronger and he started getting the curve ball over for strikes and the fastball towards the end (of the game) was some of the best velocity that he has had all year,” Hammons said. “He really improved as the game went along.”
Maybe Crippen sensed he couldn’t go on pitching all night because it was his effort with the bat in the top of the ninth inning that set the stage for Snohomish’s winning run. Crippen led off the inning with a triple to left-center field. He scored what proved to be the game-winning run when the next batter, Mitchell McCulley, singled to right field.
Crippen said that Arlington had been throwing him curve balls for most of the team’s previous game as well as Tuesday night’s game, and it is a pitch he sometimes struggles to hit. But after getting ahead in the count in the ninth, Crippen was looking for a fastball.
“I was just waiting for that fastball and kind of got it when I was ahead a little bit,” Crippen said. “I thought it was a little farther than it was. I watched it a little bit and I was like, ‘I should probably run.’ I got out of the box a little slow, but once I realized it was dying I got over to third.”
The Eagles got to Crippen in the first inning with a two-run double by Tristan Jager. Jager scored a third run later in the inning on a double steal.
The Panthers slowly chipped away at their 3-0 deficit. In the second inning, Ben Dmochowsky got Snohomish on the board with an RBI-double. The Panthers added a run in the top of the fourth inning when Crippen was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. In the top of the fifth, they tied the score on a sacrifice-fly by Haakon Lande.
Crippen pitched well for most of the game, but the defense behind him prevented Arlington from getting more than its three hits.
“(The defense) keeps us in all the games we have played this year,” Hammons said. “Pitching and defense is really a strong point of this team.
Pitching as much in one game as some major leaguers do, Crippen admitted he was fatigued when it was over.
“I’m tired that’s for sure,” he said “The first inning was rocky obviously, but after that I kind of settled down and looked good.”
The senior pitcher also verified his coach’s premonition on what would have happened if he would have tried to remove Crippen from the game.
“I was not going to come out,” Crippen said. “Once we hit the seventh inning and he put me back in in the eighth I was like, ‘I’m not going to come out at all.’ I would definitely have fought him for it, for sure. I wasn’t going to get taken out.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Arlington H.S.
Russell Crippen and Ben Johnston. Garrett Atkinson, Tristan Jager (5), Ryan Walker (9) and Josh Schempp. WP—Crippen. LP—Jager. 2B—Ben Dmochowsky (S), Jager (A). 3B—Crippen (S). Records—Snohomish 7-1 league, 8-3 overall; Arlington 4-4, 5-5.