EVERETT — On an afternoon of less than perfect baseball, the Jackson Timberwolves were steady enough and certainly opportunistic enough to defeat Monroe in a semifinal game of the District 1 Class 4A tournament.
Jackson’s 5-0 victory Monday clinches a spot in Thursday night’s district championship game against Lake Stevens and, more importantly, assures the Timberwolves of a place in the upcoming state tournament.
“My kids are great kids, and they’ve been battling all year,” said Jackson coach Kirk Nicholson, whose team will head to state for the third straight year. “All year long we’ve said, ‘Hey, guys, just keep the path, do what’s right and don’t worry about league play.
“We wanted to be ready for these two (district tournament) games because if you win two games at the end of the year, you go to state. And our guys did a nice job of that.”
The Timberwolves won behind the strong outing of starting pitcher Jaris Beasley, who checked Monroe on just three hits, and an offense that managed only four hits but took advantage of three walks and six costly Bearcat errors.
One of those errors was more costly than all the rest — if it actually was an error, that is.
After scoring once in the third inning, Jackson pushed across four unearned runs in the fifth, including three runs that scored on the game’s most pivotal and certainly most controversial play. The Timberwolves loaded the bases with no outs and got their first run of the inning, and their second of the game, on a four-pitch walk to Jeremy Spring.
Alex Baumgartner followed with a bouncer to Monroe shortstop Dakota Ralph. His throw to catcher Joseph Goguen forced out Jackson’s Joakim Soderqvist coming down the line from third, but Goguen’s throw to first base for a double play attempt sailed down the right field line.
Two runs scored initially, and when the ball kicked past right fielder Andy Zimmerman in the corner Baumgartner hustled around for the inning’s fourth run.
Bearcats coach Eric Chartrand was immediately out of the dugout, contending that Soderqvist had bumped Goguen.
“The kid obviously hit my catcher’s arm,” Chartrand insisted later, “and that was not called. … That’s a throwing error that’s really not an error because his arm got hit while he was trying to throw. But the umpire said he didn’t see that portion of the play.”
It was, Nicholson said, a “tough call there at home plate where they threw it away.”
That play aside, the Bearcats still made five other errors, including two others in Jackson’s four-run fifth. Only one of the Timberwolves’ five runs was earned.
Monroe had been playing good defense late in the season, Chartrand said, “but these kids had never been here (in the playoffs) before and I think it caught up with them. We had a lot of nerves, and the mistakes we made we don’t normally make.
“We played a really good baseball team and we made too many mistakes,” he said, “and that’s going to cost you a ballgame.”
Otherwise, the difference in the game was Beasley. He allowed no more than one base runner an inning in his six-plus innings (other than two in the first, the result of an error), and no Monroe runner reached third base until the seventh when Beasley was on the bench.
“I was sort of struggling in the beginning, but in the later innings I felt better,” said the senior right-hander. “I wasn’t at my sharpest, but I had a great defense behind me backing me up.”
Jackson’s defense was particularly sterling in the fourth, with Soderqvist making a headlong diving catch to take a leadoff hit away from Goguen. After a Bearcats base hit, T-wolves third baseman Aaron Avalos made a tough snag near the bag of a hard smash by Monroe’s Patrick Siler and turned it into a terrific 5-4-3 double play.
In the end, “it was a hard-fought game,” Nicholson said. “I’m not sure we were any better than them, but I think some things just bounced our way.”
At Everett Memorial Stadium
Jackson 001 040 0—5 4 2
Monroe 000 000 0—0 3 0
Beasley, Wingert (7) and Kiel; Siler, Spahman (6), Murphy (7) and Goguen. WP—Beasley. LP—Siler. Records—Jackson is 13-7. Monroe is 7-15.