By David Krueger Herald Writer
LAKE STEVENS — Lake Stevens’ Class 4A District 1 semifinal baseball game Monday afternoon didn’t start the way the Vikings would have liked.
Lake Stevens found itself trailing after Jackson scored three runs in the top of the first inning.
But the Vikings didn’t panic.
Lake Stevens scored two in the bottom of the first and four in the fifth before exploding for seven runs in the sixth en route to a 13-4 victory at Lake Stevens High School Monday afternoon.
“These guys have had confidence in themselves all year long,” said Lake Stevens’ head coach Rodger Anderson. “We’ve done this before — gone down in the first inning and come back.”
After a rocky first inning, Lake Stevens’ starter Alex Koeplin talked with assistant coach Michael Hodgins, who calls the pitches in the game.
“We had a little ‘come to Jesus moment,’” Hodgins said. “He shared his thoughts, I shared mine. He has that bulldog grit. He just refused to give up.”
Following his talk with Hodgins, Koeplin pitched four straight scoreless innings before Jackson scored a run in the sixth. The right-hander allowed seven hits before leaving the game after six innings.
Things were going so well for Koeplin that in the third inning, after throwing a series of fastballs, Koeplin did the unexpected. He declined catcher Logan Merrill’s request for another one. Instead, Koeplin opted for a curveball, getting the Jackson batter to swing and miss for strike three.
“He hadn’t shaken a sign off in two years,” Hodgins said.
Kevin Lanto came in to pitch a 1-2-3 seventh for the Vikings.
Jackson’s Sam Brown had a 3-2 lead before the Vikings scored for four runs in the fifth.
With the bases loaded, Christian Shouman gave Lake Stevens its first lead of the game with a two-run single up the middle, scoring Dylan Lavelle and Anthony Blackie. Christian Gasca followed with suicide squeeze bunt down the first-base line — with two runs scoring on the play.
Merrill scored from third on the bunt and Shouman — who had advanced to second on a throw to the plate on his single — scored on a throwing error to give Lake Stevens a 6-3 lead.
Lake Stevens scored seven more runs in the sixth to put the game out of reach. Wade Curtis hit a bases-clearing double to cap the uprising.
The victory clinched a spot for the Vikings in Thursday’s District 1 championship game at Everett Memorial Stadium against Edmonds-Woodway.
“We want to be district champions,” Hodgins said. “Being a No. 1 seed and staying in Everett (for a state regional game) is a lot better than being a No. 2 seed on the road (in Kent).”
Jackson will host Arlington at 4 p.m. today as it tries to claim the district’s third and final state berth.
At Lake Stevens H.S.
Sam Brown, Rob Brencic (5), Kenneth Neaville (6) and Colby Johansen. Alex Koeplin, Kevin Lanto (7) and Logan Merrill. WP—Koeplin. LP—Brown. 2B—Traishawn Patrick (J), Dylan Lavelle (LS) 2, Anthony Blackie (LS), Wade Curtis (LS). Records—Jackson 12-9 overall. Lake Stevens 21-1.