BELLINGHAM — Archbishop Murphy faced a familiar foe in Sunday afternoon’s state quarterfinal baseball game.
And the Wildcats got a familiar result.
Thanks to some timely hitting and a two-hitter by senior pitcher Zander Clouse, Archbishop Murphy defeated Lynden — who lost to the Wildcats twice in last year’s postseason, including the 2A state championship game — 3-1 in a state regional championship at Joe Martin Field in Bellingham.
“They’re a good team. Their record (22-3 overall) indicates that they’ve beaten just about every team around, and we happen to run into them and had a good day,” said Archbishop Murphy head coach Stan Taloff. “You have to play all the good ones sometime or another. Last year we played them in the final four and this year we had to play them for the regional championship. In any case, we’re satisfied with what happened. Our pitchers today were fantastic.”
Clouse didn’t allow a Lynden baserunner until a walk in the top of the fourth inning, or a hit until the fifth. The first hit was a solo home run by Lions first baseman Matt Meyer that went over the 350-foot wall in left-center field.
“One hit went 370 (feet) but doesn’t hurt you on a solo home run,” Clouse said. “But I was feeling good.”
The only other time Clouse (8-2) found himself in trouble was the top of the sixth, when Lynden senior Josh Kraght — the senior quarterback and point guard for the Lynden football and basketball teams — hit a double to put runners at second and third with one out.
But Taloff came out to the mound to calm Clouse down, and the senior struck out the next two batters to get out of the inning, and punch Archbishop Murphy’s ticket to the 2A state semifinals next weekend at Yakima County Stadium, where the Wildcats (23-2) play Tumwater at 4 p.m. Friday.
“He just came out and said, ‘You’re a good pitcher Zander,’” Clouse said. “He kind of calmed my nerves and said, ‘Strand them.’ So that’s what I did.”
Then the Archbishop Murphy offense got to Lynden starter Zach Vis (4-3). Camden Buchanan led the inning off with a walk, and then quickly stole second base. The throw appeared to beat Buchanan, but the Lynden fielder lost the ball on the tag so Buchanan was called safe.
The Lions’ coach briefly came out to discuss the call with the umpire but returned to the dugout while Buchanan remained on second.
After a groundout to first base allowed Buchanan to get to third, Philip Michael Feliciano hit a sharp grounder the Lynden shortstop couldn’t field. The error allowed Buchanan to score. Feliciano scored later in the inning on a pinch-hit RBI double by Ryan Dorney.
“Any time you get run support it lifts the weight off my shoulders. Those were two big runs in the bottom of the sixth,” Clouse said. “I was definitely excited having a two-run cushion coming out.”
Clouse, who will play at Bellevue Community College next season, continued strong pitching performances for the Wildcats.
Derrick Mahlum (11-0) remained perfect on the season and also allowed only two hits in Archbishop Murphy’s first win of the day, a 2-0 victory over White River in the first round of the state tournament.
“That makes (Mahlum) 11-0 this year, coming off a year last year where he was 6-0,” Taloff said. “That’s fantastic.”
Taloff said he had faith in both pitchers, but that he decided to go with Mahlum — a Pacific Lutheran University commit — in the first game because he hasn’t really struggled at all this season.
“The second game doesn’t mean anything if you don’t take care of the first one and both of the pitchers have done great this year,” Taloff said. “But Mahlum hasn’t had any hiccups at all in his performances so he had to go the first one. But we knew that on a given day either one of them could be a No. 1 (pitcher).”
The Wildcats are back in the final four for the second consecutive year where they hope to finish with a same result as the 2012 season: a 2A state championship.
Taloff said that any of the four teams still in the tournament can win it, and Archbishop Murphy is just going to try to continue its success by doing what it’s done all season.
“It’s going to take our pitchers to concentrate on every single pitch, it’s going to take our defensive players to play every single pitch and it’s going to take our offense to have an approach at the plate and get their pitch and attack the ball,” Taloff said. “Nothing really changes. The game of baseball remains the same.”
At Joe Martin Field
Lynden 000 010 0 — 1 2 1
A. Murphy 100 002 x — 3 6 1
Zach Vis and Josh Kraght. Zander Clouse and Alex Galgano. WP—Clouse (8-2). LP—Vis (4-3). 2B—Kraght (L), Ryan Dorney (AM). HR—Matt Meyer (L). Records—Lynden 22-3 overall. Archbishop Murphy 23-2.
White River 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
A. Murphy 002 000 x — 2 7 3
Cole Johnson and Riley Johnson. Derrick Mahlum and Alex Galgano. WP—Mahlum (11-0). LP—C. Johnson (8-3). Records—White River 19-7 overall. Archbishop Murphy 23-2.