By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
EVERETT — For five innings on Saturday, Lake Stevens and Olympia waged a tight, tense Class 4A regional baseball showdown at Everett Memorial Stadium.
Vikings right-hander Branden Kelliher was pitching well enough to amass 11 strikeouts, though he trailed 2-1 through five. The difference was an unearned run Olympia pushed across in the third inning, and as the game went to the sixth it was looking like that run might be decisive.
As it turned out, that one run mattered very little. It was the 10 runs Olympia scored in the final two innings that were costly.
The Bears pounded out 10 hits in their last two at-bats, got two other base runners via walks, benefitted from three Lake Stevens errors, and turned a close game into an eventual 12-1 blowout. The outcome moved Olympia into the regional final against Kentwood later on Saturday, and ended the Vikings’ season with a 14-10 record.
Afterward, Lake Stevens coach Rodger Anderson told his players “to not remember this game because that’s not us. It was just one of those games.”
The Vikings started a lineup with seven juniors, two sophomores and just one senior, “so maybe our youth caught up with us,” Anderson said. Conversely, Olympia “is a very good high school team. We really can’t feel bad about it because we got beat by a better team today.”
A week ago, Lake Stevens pulled out three hard-fought wins to snag a surprising District 1 championship and the right to host Saturday’s four-team regional. And in the early going Saturday it looked like this might be another battle that would go down to the last pitch.
The Vikings struck first, scoring a two-out run in the bottom of the first. First baseman Corey Bullens, batting third, lashed a single into right-center field on the first pitch, and Kelliher followed with a drive off the left field wall — it missed being a home run by about 10 feet — to score Bullens on a sliding play at the plate.
Olympia countered with two runs in the third on two hits and two Vikings errors. Both were errant throws, and the second allowed the Bears to score the go-ahead run.
Aside from a shaky third, the hard-throwing Kelliher gave up only two other hits while fanning 11 in the first five innings. But in the sixth he walked the leadoff hitter and gave up three straight hits, prompting Anderson to summon the first of four Lake Stevens relievers.
Alas, the new pitchers fared no better. In the sixth Olympia pounded out four doubles and four runs before center fielder Cameron Frost capped the uprising with a towering three-run home run over the left field wall.
The Bears tacked on three more runs in the seventh and Lake Stevens was retired in order to end the game.
Disappointing as Saturday’s outcome was for the Vikings, most of the players will be back to try again next season. The experience gained in this year’s district and regional tournaments “is going to be huge,” Anderson said. “I think it’s going to pay off next year, the following year and on down the line.”
Kelliher will be a senior next season, and with a sizzling fastball that reaches the low 90s “there’ll be lots of scouts around,” Anderson said. “People will be talking about him.”
And for entire program, “I think the future is very bright,” he went on. “We had great leadership from our seniors this year, but we won’t have too many holes to fill. And we’ve got some young guys that are pretty talented.
“Like we just told them, ‘Next year you’re going to have targets on your back. You’re not going to sneak up on people.’ ? So this was a learning experience, and now we’ll just build from this.”
At Everett Memorial Stadium
Olympia 002 007 3—12 14 1
Lake Stevens 100 000 0—1 4 6
Elliot Loague and Max Stottlemyre; Branden Kelliher, Jeffery Sevey (6), Nick Hoskins, Sam Pyzer (6), Jacob Eason. WP—Loague. LP—Kelliher. 2B—Leo Valenti (O), Michael Fairchild (O), Leif Hansen (O), Joey Knight (O), Jake Biscay (O), Kelliher (LS). HR—Cameron Frost (O). Records—Olympia is 19-7, Lake Stevens is 14-10.