By Mark Nelson Herald Writer
Archbishop Murphy senior Ty Kane wasn’t about to let back pain keep him from pitching in the Class 2A state tournament — especially given the Wildcats’ disappointing results in recent tournaments.
Kane, who hadn’t pitched since an April 27 win over Cedarcrest, tossed a four-hit, complete-game victory over Burlington-Edison last Saturday to help the Wildcats advance to the Class 2A state semifinals for the first time in school history.
The Wildcats (21-3) play W.F. West of Chehalis at 4 p.m. today at Yakima County Stadium. Kane, recently named the Cascade Conference’s 2010 Most Valuable Player, is scheduled to pitch.
“It’s pretty close (to being better). It’s not perfect,” Kane said of his back injury, which doctors call a “spondy.” The injury is the product of overuse of the lower back muscles.
Archbishop Murphy won the Class 1A title in 2004. Since the move up to Class 2A, the Wildcats hadn’t advanced past the quarterfinals until this season.
Three early-season losses, including two against conference foe Lakewood, served as stepping stones for a squad that lost in the first round of the state tournament last season. “(They) proved to us that there’s nothing automatic in baseball,” Wildcats coach Stan Taloff said.
Archbishop Murphy, which has won 17 straight games heading into today’s semifinal, turned a corner late in the year with a 3-1 victory over South Whidbey on April 19, Taloff said.
“There was some real character development in the first South Whidbey game,” he said. “We had to prove that we could win a one-run game (the Wildcats led 2-1 for much of the way before scoring once in the seventh inning) and the internal leadership that came about and the excitement for the game … is contagious.”
Taloff noted that Jacob Oster emerged to provide the senior leadership that re-energized the Wildcats.
Kane, a University of Washington signee who was able to serve as the team’s designated hitter while recovering, faces perhaps the greatest test of his pitching acumen today against W.F. West.
The Bearcats (21-3) are led by junior pitcher Robert Pehl (8-0, 2.28 earned-run average) and athletic shortstop Erik Forgione, another junior. Both have committed to Washington.
The team that head coach Tom Zuber called “a determined bunch” battled injuries to several key starters, earned the district’s No. 3 seed to state and cruised into the state semifinals.
“It’s going to be a dogfight. I’m kind of hoping they’re a year away (from being a championship team),” Taloff said. “We’ve got to go out and do what we need to do. I don’t anticipate anybody blowing anybody out.”
W.F. West took third place in last year’s tournament and boasts just as much offensive firepower as Archbishop Murphy.
“They were ranked No. 1 in the state pretty much all year, so we’ve got to get pumped up for that game,” Kane said. “If the state tournament doesn’t get you pumped up, I don’t know what else will.”