By David Pan Weekly Herald sports editor
LYNNWOOD — A week ago the Meadowdale baseball team was licking its wounds after a tough start to the 2012 season.
The Mavericks had dropped their first three games to nonconference Class 4A opponents and then opened the Western Conference 3A regular season schedule with a 5-2 loss to Glacier Peak.
But Meadowdale regrouped and came back to beat the Grizzlies 9-7 in the second game of the series and then posted 4-1 and 5-2 wins over district rival Mountlake Terrace last week.
“We’re feeling better,” Meadowdale coach Bill Hummel said.
The difference? The Mavericks’ offense finally came alive. After the first four games Meadowdale was hitting .128 as a team with only 12 hits in 94 at-bats.
That quickly changed in the victory over Glacier Peak as the Mavericks matched their then season-to-date hit total with 12 hits. Senior Matt Hirsch was 3-for-4 with a double and two triples. He also came in relief of starter Sam Herzer to preserve the victory March 27 at Glacier Peak High School.
The tough nonleague preseason schedule helped the Mavericks in Hirsch’s opinion.
“Just the first couple of the games we were trying to find ourselves against some good 4A teams,” he said. “I think that got us ready for league play.”
In addition to some timely hitting against Mountlake Terrace, Meadowdale (3-1 in the league, 3-4 overall) had two outstanding complete-game performances by their pitchers. Bill Sullivan allowed only four hits and struck out six in the 4-1 victory March 28 at Mountlake Terrace High School.
Teammate Torin Dooley then surrendered only three hits and struck out seven in a 5-2 win in a game shortened to six innings due to rain that also was played at Mountlake Terrace High School.
Sullivan improved to 1-1 and had his best outing of the year. The lefthander also had three short appearances this season.
“He really pitched a terrific game,” Hummel said. “He was consistently around the strike zone. He kept them off balance.”
Dooley was almost as effective, though Hummel admits he was a pitch away from being removed in the sixth.
Hummel noted that is rare for pitchers to throw complete games this early in the season.
“We don’t like doing that,” he said. “It’s unusual to do in March. The two kids throwing, their pitch count was pretty low.”
Mountlake Terrace coach Andrew Watters said both Meadowdale pitchers worked ahead in the count.
“We just didn’t get any hits for the two games,” Watters said. “We had a string of games where we really hit the ball well at the start of the season. I tip my hat to Meadowdale. They played a good series against us. They outplayed us for two games.”
The Hawks (2-2, 2-4) also committed four costly errors in the two games.
“We had some defensive lapses that cost us some runs,” Watters said. “It would have made each of those games closer. We’re still working to get better. We’re going to be better at the end of the year.”
Sullivan and Dooley’s performances on the mound helped their teammates at the plate, Hirsch said.
“What really got us going in the game is they were throwing strikes,” he said. “They were getting us back to hit. The fact that we were able to score first in both of the Terrace games really got us going offensively.”
Hirsch stroked three singles and drove in two runs in the first Mountlake Terrace contest. Teammate Riley Bykonen hit two singles and Herzer had a double. Brian Marty hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning that extended the Mavericks’ lead from 2-0 for 4-0 in game two against the Hawks. Herzer and Grantland Over each hit a double.
The Mavericks were scheduled to face first-place Shorecrest (4-0, 6-1) on Tuesday (at Shorecrest) and Wednesday (at Meadowdale). Mountlake Terrace looks to rebound against Oak Harbor also on Tuesday (at Oak Harbor) and Wednesday (at Mountlake Terrace).
The spring break series has definite postseason implications for Meadowdale.
“These two games are going to decide who is at the top of the league at the end of the week,” Hirsch said.
Hummel saw last week’s three victories as a confidence booster.
“We’re certainly on the upswing,” he said. “We’re playing well defensively. We’re strong up the middle right now. We’re swinging the bats much better.”