EVERETT — Three outs and three runs away from defeat and a place in the consolation bracket of the Class 4A District 1 baseball tournament, Lake Stevens showed the heart and determination of a champion.
Trailing 3-0 in their final at-bat against Edmonds-Woodway, the Vikings scored four runs, including three with two outs, for a thrilling 4-3 comeback victory on Monday afternoon at Everett Memorial Stadium.
The game-winning hit came from Vikings third baseman Brandon Kelliher, who lashed a sharp opposite-field drive that came right out of the sun at Edmonds-Woodway right fielder Chantz Justice. Justice managed to get his mitt on the ball, but it deflected past him and rolled toward the wall, and Lake Stevens base runners Gavin O’Neil and Corey Bullens scored from second and first.
It was, Vikings coach Rodger Anderson admitted, a little bit of luck. “And probably a lot of luck,” he said. “But I’ll take luck over skill any day.”
With the win, the defending district champion Vikings advance to Thursday’s 7 p.m. district championship game, also at Everett Memorial Stadium. More importantly, Lake Stevens clinches a spot in the upcoming state tournament.
“We talked about character being what it takes to repeat,” Anderson said. “And that’s kind of been our motto all year. Now we’ve given ourselves a chance. We’re in the district championship game.”
The Warriors, meanwhile, will try to bounce back today when they host Monroe, a 10-4 winner over Jackson on Monday, in at 4 p.m. loser-out game at Edmonds-Woodway.
Despite being frustrated offensively for six innings, Lake Stevens showed its resolve in the seventh. The Vikings kept putting the ball in play and putting runners on base to set up Kelliher’s game-winning double.
Cody Vigoren led off the inning with a line drive single to center and moved to second as Matt Del Fante beat out a slow chopper to third base. One out later, Justin Brown bounced a ball toward right field that Edmonds-Woodway first baseman Cameron Sharpe cut off and tossed to pitcher Austin Whitehouse covering the bag, but Whitehouse dropped the throw.
With the bases loaded, the Vikings got their first run — but their second out — on a fielder’s choice at second base. Bullens then beat out an infield grounder that scored the second run and brought Kelliher to the plate.
The loss was a heart-breaker for Edmonds-Woodway and particularly Whitehouse, who had checked the Vikings on no runs and two hits through the first six innings while allowing only one base runner to advance as far as third base. He finished with six strikeouts, three walks and a hit batter.
Vikings starter Jacob Eason struck out the first four batters he faced, but gave up one run in the fourth and two in the fifth. He also took a hard line drive off the right foot in the fifth and was questionable to finish the inning, but stayed in before giving way to reliever Skylar Swords in the sixth.
“He came out there and competed.,” Anderson said of Eason, who was a fill-in starter for an injured teammate. After getting hit by the line drive, “he was hurting, but he’s a tough kid.”
At Everett Memorial Stadium
Edmonds-Woodway 000 120 0 — 3 Lake Stevens 000 000 4 — 4
Austin Whitehouse and Tate Budnick; Jacob Eason, Skylar Swords (6) and Matt Del Fante. WP—Swords, LP—Whitehouse. 2B—Brandon Kelliher (LS). Records_Edmonds-Woodway is 14-8, Lake Stevens is 15-7.