By David Krueger Herald Writer
SNOHOMISH — The Snohomish baseball team’s offense finally had the breakout game Panthers head coach Kim Hammons was waiting for.
However, Snohomish didn’t really need it.
Snohomish pitcher Ryan Sandifer allowed just two hits and struck out eight as the junior led the Panthers to a 6-0 victory over Jackson in the first round of the 4A District 1 tournament Saturday afternoon at Snohomish High School.
“He was on fire. Totally in command,” Hammons said. “Dominating. Just a great effort. He was ready to go.”
Sandifer didn’t allow a hit — or a Jackson baserunner — until the top of the fifth inning, when Blake Chong led off the inning with a single to account for half of the Timberwolves’ hit total.
A double by Aaron Avalos in the seventh was the only other success against Sandifer.
“That pitcher is pretty doggone good,” said Jackson head coach Kirk Nicholson. “Let’s be honest, we might have played 10 innings and never scored a run. … We haven’t seen a slider like that all year. We haven’t seen anybody in our league that’s thrown like that. The movement on his ball is far greater than anybody else we’ve seen this year.”
Sandifer, who improved to 7-1 this season with the win, said he didn’t have any nerves going out in the Panthers’ first playoff game — one they’ve struggled to win the past few seasons.
“All I need to do to win games is throw strikes and let my defense do the work,” Sandifer said. “It’s what I’ve been doing all year.”
The pitcher particularly enjoyed the bottom of the third inning, as he watched the Panthers bat around the order and put up five runs on the scoreboard. Garrett Stich had the first of three consecutive singles that plated the first Snohomish run. The Panthers tallied five hits in the inning — and were aided by a Jackson error — as they built the early lead.
Not that Sandifer needed it.
“We had timely hits. What’s that?” Hammons said with a laugh. “Timely hits. I told the guys after the game I’ve been waiting three years for you guys to learn how to do this. This is how you do it!”
Hammons pointed to Snohomish’s 4-1 loss to Arlington in the regular-season finale, when the Panthers had seven hits and left 10 runners on base.
“We just could not get a timely hit,” Hammons said. “That is the way the season has gone. Lots of one- and two-run ballgames. Finally, today we got some timely hitting. We got five runs in one inning. I don’t think we’ve done that all year.”
The six runs match the third-highest run total for the Panthers this season. They have scored six or more runs four times this year, with their season-high coming in a 9-0 win over Jackson in both teams’ season opener.
“We have struggled for runs. It’s always been tight,” Hammons said. “For us to jump out and score five runs today, it was a cushion I’m not used to.”
The game served as a little revenge for the Panthers, who have lost to Jackson to start the past two district tournaments. Hammons is hoping the game gives Snohomish some momentum as it takes on Cascade — 10-0 winners over Monroe on Saturday — in the winner’s bracket at 7 p.m. Monday at Everett Memorial Stadium.
“We haven’t done it in three years,” Hammons said. “We’ve lost extra-inning games, we’ve lost one-run games, so this is really huge. It’s really sweet. It was nice for these guys to break out and get a little confidence to start the district tournament.”
Snohomish’s Jake Mulholland got the third inning started with a leadoff walk, before being driven in by a Stich single to right field as the Panthers’ offense began to pile the runs on.
“They’re a good team. They’re a really good team,” Nicholson said. “We had one tough inning where they got to our guy. It started with a leadoff walk, which is never a good thing, and it just snowballed from there.”
Tanner Arrington (1-for-3) had a double, RBI and scored a run for Snohomish (14-7 overall), which got RBI base hits from Stich, Brad Morgan, Andrew Ivelia, Ben Dmochowsky and Nolan Smith in the third inning. Arrington added a sacrifice fly for the Panthers before Smith finished the rally with an RBI double.
“It’s a great time to (get the offense going),” Hammons said. “We have hit the ball pretty well this year but we have hit it right at (players). We have not been lucky, whatsoever.”
Said Sandifer: “We’ve been struggling a little bit this year but that was nice to see. Hopefully, we just keep doing it throughout the playoffs.”
Hammons said his team put together a complete, all-around game in their district opener.
“Good pitching, good defense, score some runs,” Hammons said. “Look how easy it is.”
Sandifer and the Panthers hope they can keep the streak up in the postseason.
“We just need to keep hitting the ball. That’s all we need to do,” said Sandifer, whose lone loss this year was a 1-0 decision against league-champion Lake Stevens. “Our pitching has been fantastic all year and our defense has been incredible. That’s all we need to keep doing is hitting the ball.”
Jackson (12-9) looks to rebound from the loss when the Timberwolves host Monroe in a loser-out game Monday afternoon. Nicholson said he expects his team to be ready to get back after it as Jackson tries to continue on in the district tournament.
“Do you want to win every game? Yeah. Are you going to win every game? Probably not,” Nicholson said. “They’ve played enough baseball in their lives to know tomorrow will be another day.
“We’re going to bounce back. We’ll be fine. I don’t want to face (Sandifer) again, but we’ll come back and we’ll play just fine on Monday.”
At Snohomish H.S.
Jackson 000 000 0 — 0 2 2
Snohomish 005 010 x — 6 7 1
Tyler Wingert, Spencer Steinle (4), Kellen Woods (6) and Alex Kiel. Ryan Sandifer and Ben Dmochowsky. WP—Sandifer (7-1). LP—Wingert. 2B—Aaron Avalos (J), Nolan Smith (S), Tanner Arrington (S). Records—Jackson 12-9 overall. Snohomish 14-7.