By David Rasbach The Bellingham Herald
ANACORTES — For four innings on Saturday, the Granite Falls baseball team had the defending Class 2A state runner-ups on the ropes.
More specifically, Xavier Denke did.
Denke retired the first 13 Lynden batters he faced during the first round of the 2A District 1/2 Tournament at Volunteer Field, including six by strikeout, and Tyler Hamilton added a first-inning solo home run.
But cracks started to show with one out in the fifth when Granite Falls committed the first of five errors over the final two innings, allowing Lynden to tie the game and eventually surge ahead for a 9-2 victory.
“Errors always kill you,” Tigers coach Doug Engstrom said. “They come back and haunt you. We had a couple of them in those last couple of innings — way too many to win this kind of game against this type of a team. You can’t have those errors.”
Granite Falls (7-14) drops into the consolation side of the bracket and faces Cedarcrest in a 3 p.m. loser-out game on Tuesday.
“Cedarcrest is a good team, too,” Engstrom said. “We’re going to need to come ready to play.”
Denke and the Tigers certainly did Saturday, as he held a team that entered hitting .320 without a baserunner through the first 41/3 innings. But when Washington State-bound offensive lineman Matt Meyer reached on a two-base error, it seemed to let the Lions loosen up a little bit.
“That set the whole tone,” Lynden senior Ryan Mouat said. “Up until that point, he’s been pitching a perfect game. We hadn’t even put a dent in their defense. That one little chink just set it off. Maybe it got us in their heads a little bit, and from there we just took off.”
Mouat’s opposite-field single scored Meyer to tie the game.
Back-to-back doubles by Hamilton and James Barnard pushed Granite Falls back in front in the top of the sixth, but it was short lived, as Lynden sent 12 batters to the plate in the sixth and scored eight runs on five hits, a walk and four errors.
Peter Bovenkamp opened the inning by reaching on an error, before Luke Christianson doubled him in to tie the game. Two batters later, Zach Vis singled Christianson in, and Lynden was off and running.
“Their kid, he threw a heck of a game today and kept us off balance through five innings,” Lynden coach Cory White said. “He threw really well and made us resort back to some fundamental stuff. … We always preach pitching, solid defense and timely hitting. As I look at scoreboard right now, we’re nine, six and zero (runs, hits and errors), and they’re two, six and five, and those five errors killed them. We put it in play and made them make the play on us, and they weren’t able to.”
At Volunteer Park
Xavier Denke, Riley Larsen (6) and James Barnard. Tanner Olson and Josh Kraght. WP—Olson. LP—Denke. 2B—Tyler Hamilton (GF), Barnard, Junior Russell (GF). HR—Hamilton. Records—Granite Falls 7-14 overall. Lynden 19-1.