By Nick Patterson For The Weekly Herald
MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — When facing an ace pitcher, sometimes an offense needs to get creative. On April 25 the Mountlake Terrace High School baseball team reached into that bag of tricks and pulled out a victory.
Mountlake Terrace’s manufactured four-run rally in the bottom of the third inning proved the difference, and the Hawks kept themselves in the Wesco 3A race with a 6-3 victory over the Shorecrest Scots.
With the win Mountlake Terrace (9-4 in the league, 9-7 overall) kept itself in contention for the top two places in the standings. The Hawks pulled even with Shorecrest (9-4, 12-5) for second, a game-and-a-half behind first-place Meadowdale. One week remains in the regular season. It also set up a crucial rematch April 27 at Shorecrest.
“It was a real big win for us,” Mountlake Terrace coach Andrew Watters said. “I think that was the biggest quality win we’ve had.”
Wednesday’s game featured two of the league’s premier pitchers as Mountlake Terrace left-hander Alex Hatch and Shorecrest righty Ted Hammond brought their live arms to a game with major playoff implications. But it was the Hawks who found a way to generate runs against their hard-throwing opponent.
Shorecrest led 1-0 going into the bottom of the third. But on the first pitch of the inning No. 9 batter Jalen Pahinui laid down a bunt up the first-base line that he beat out for a single. Then on the second pitch of the inning Austin Johnson also laid down a bunt, this time a sacrifice. However, when the throw was up the line, Johnson ran into Shorecrest first baseman Jack Aitchison’s glove and knocked the ball free, the runners advancing to second and third.
One out later Hatch hit a sharp grounder to first. Aitchison came home with the throw, but Pahinui got a good jump off third and slid in just ahead of the tag to get the Hawks on the scoreboard. Josh Fitch followed by pulling a two-run double just inside the third-base line to give Mountlake Terrace the lead. A fourth run later scored on a bases-loaded wild pitch as the Hawks took a 4-1 lead, despite getting just one ball out of the infield.
“In games like this, when you have two aces going ahead and two teams at the top of the league going head to head, it’s who can generate the big inning, and can you prevent the big inning from happening,” Shorecrest coach Alan Bruns said. “They got the big inning. They had a great leadoff bunt single, we made a few mistakes defensively that we’d like to do better next time, and they got a clutch hit. Credit to them.”
Shorecrest also had its chances, most notably in the top of the fifth when, trailing 4-3, the Scots loaded the bases with one out. But Hatch came up huge, getting a full-count strikeout and a flyout to right to preserve the lead.
Hatch earned the win, going six innings and striking out nine despite not having his best stuff.
“I didn’t have everything, command was a big issue today, but I brought it anyway,” Hatch said.
“(The jam in the top of the fifth) was tough, but you have to stay strong through it no matter what,” Hatch added. “You have to fight, you can’t make any dumb mistakes or anything like that.”
After Mountlake Terrace stretched the lead to 6-3, the Scots brought the tying run to the plate in the top of the seventh. But Fitch, who relieved Hatch to begin the inning, got a strikeout for the final out to record the save.
Quintin Barnard homered, while Hatch and Johnson both had two hits and reached base four times for Mountlake Terrace. The Hawks finished with eight hits, seven of those coming during Hammond’s five frames.
“I’m pretty proud of the way we hit the ball today,” Watters said. “We have a lot of respect for Hammond, and I was just really proud that our kids took a good approach against him. That was really the key for us, those big hits we got today.”
Neil Baldwin went 2-for-3, including a two-run homer, to lead the Scots. Hammond finished with six strikeouts in his five innings.