EVERETT — So far the Lynnwood High School baseball team has been the feel-good story of the Wesco 4A South, the little team that made the dramatic turnaround after winning just three games a year ago.
But on a drizzly Wednesday afternoon, the Royals made a statement that they’re not just a fun footnote. They’re a legitimate threat.
Lynnwood used the combination of Ryan Tsuji’s efficient pitching and perfect defensive execution to defeat Cascade 7-1, handing the Bruins their first league loss of the season.
“This was the big statement win,” Tsuji said. “We beat Cascade, which was undefeated. It was a great win that showed everybody we’re competing this year. “
Lynnwood has been the surprise team of the Wesco 4A South. The Royals, who hadn’t won more than six games in a campaign since 2009, surpassed their win total from last season within a week of the start of this season by sweeping their four non-league games. But it looked like reality was kicking in once Wesco play began as Lynnwood dropped three of its first five against league foes, including Tuesday’s 6-1 loss to Cascade in the first game of this week’s three-game set.
However, Wednesday’s victory against a Cascade team that had won nine straight — allowing just nine runs during the streak — marked Lynnwood (3-3 league, 7-3 overall) as a team to contend with.
“We worked hard all offseason, the guys bought into it, and now they’re seeing the success,” Lynnwood coach Adam Villalobos said. “It’s paying off big time and we’re just trying to grow it.”
For Lynnwood, it all began with Tsuji. The right-hander, who’s one of just two seniors on the team, worked fast and threw strikes while tossing a complete-game four-hitter.
However, Tsuji’s pitch-to-contact style would have gone for naught if it hadn’t been for Lynnwood’s defense. The Royals played error-free behind Tsuji, turning two double plays and also executing a perfect relay when Cascade’s Austin Pinorini tried to stretch his double to right field into a triple.
“I think I pitched pretty well considering the conditions,” Tsuji said. “It was hard to get a grip on the ball. But I kept the ball down and the defense played a great game today. I don’t think we had a single error, it was amazing.”
In contrast, the Bruins suffered from their struggles in the field. Cascade committed three errors, and the Bruins gave up nine bases on wild pitches and passed balls. The wild pitches and passed balls were particularly costly as four of Lynnwood’s first five runs came scored as a result of a pitch getting away at the plate.
“The easiest difference was that in bad weather they made every play and we didn’t,” Cascade coach Scott Stencil said. “Give them credit for doing that. They were able to focus in tough conditions, and unfortunately we didn’t make some plays early on and got behind. It’s real tough when you get behind in a game like this against a guy who’s throwing a lot of strikes and the defense behind him is making all the plays. It’s a good lesson for any pitcher in high school: If you have a defense that’s making plays and (you) throw strikes, you’re going to be successful.”
Lynnwood’s offense was led by Tsuji, Carson Hoerner and Kyler McMahan, who each had two hits. Tsuji and Hoerner each scored twice, while Hoerner and McMahan both doubled.
Pinorini and Matthew Butler each doubled to lead Cascade (5-1, 9-2), which still has a chance to take the series with a victory in Friday’s rubber match at Lynnwood.
Lynnwood took advantage of Cascade’s miscues to open the scoring in the top of the third inning. Hoerner led off with a double to left, then came around to score on a pair of wild pitches. An errant throw on Lawton Manipon’s sacrifice bunt brought Brice Foster home, then McMahan scored on another wild pitch as the Royals took a 3-0 lead.
It was more of the same as Lynnwood stretched its lead to 5-0 in the fourth. Tsuji led off with a single and advanced to third on a pair of bunts. He scored on a passed ball, then Chase Hacker followed him home shortly after on a wild pitch.
Cascade finally got on the board in the bottom of the fifth courtesy of Brennan Hancock’s RBI single to center.
The Royals put the game away with two runs in the sixth. Tsuji scored from third on Foster’s groundout to third, bolting for home on the throw to first and just sliding around the tag at home. McMahan added an RBI double to left-center to complete the scoring.
At Cascade H.S.
Lynnwood 003 202 0 — 7 8 0
Cascade 000 010 0 — 1 4 3
Ryan Tsuji and Brady Girgus. Matthew Butler, Kelly King (5), Josh Staveskie (7) and Von Ferguson. WP—Tsuji. LP—Butler. 2B—Carson Hoerner (L), Kyler McMahan (L), Austin Pinorini (C), Butler (C). Records—Lynnwood 3-3 league, 7-3 overall. Cascade 5-1, 9-2.