By Scott M. Johnson For the Weekly Herald
KENT — The most symbolic moment of Edmonds-Woodway’s final game of the 2012 baseball season came down to, as it so often does, a pitch that got away.
Warriors starting pitcher Ryan Budnick had already started his windup when Kentwood batter Skyler Genger called for, and was granted, a timeout during a second-inning at-bat. Unable to stop his motion, Budnick unleashed a wild pitch that sailed right toward Genger’s head. Genger, the Kentwood pitcher, reached out with his left hand and plucked the ball out the air, glaring at Budnick as both dugouts let out a gasp.
It was that kind of morning for Edmonds-Woodway, which came at the Conquerors and gave the 4A state contenders a scare but couldn’t quite knock them down.
The Warriors eventually fell 8-3 at Kent Memorial Park. The Conquerors (23-2) used a four-run fifth inning to pull away from a 3-3 tie and send Edmonds-Woodway packing.
“Kentwood is a very good hitting team — the best I’ve seen this year,” Edmonds-Woodway coach Dan Somoza said after the Conquerors piled up 13 hits and eight runs in a 4A regional game May 19. “Ryan’s a great pitcher, and he pitched a great game, but he left a few pitches up in the fifth.”
Budnick, who claims his head-high pitch toward Genger was unintentional yet still paid for it by getting plunked twice while standing in the batters box, pitched his way out of trouble for most of the first four innings and was particularly effective against Kentwood star Reese McGuire, who went 0-for-3 against him while leaving five runners on base. But Kentwood’s other eight batters went 13-for-25 against Edmonds-Woodway pitching. The Conquerors had five hits and four runs in the fifth, breaking a 3-3 tie in the process, then added an eighth run off reliever Patrick Bernard in the bottom of the sixth.
Kentwood’s Genger, meanwhile, seemed to get refocused after the pitch that came at his head. He finished the game with five scoreless innings, allowing two hits while striking out nine after Edmonds-Woodway’s Jorgen Arneson hit a three-run homer off him in the top of the second.
Genger and the Conquerors fell behind 3-1 on Arneson’s homer but quickly responded with two runs of their own on a Cash McGuire double in the bottom of the second to tie the score at 3. Genger stepped into the box next and drew a 1-1 count before calling timeout as Budnick started his windup. The pitch, on which Budnick visibly dialed down his speed as he tried to pull up, came right at Genger’s head but was cleanly plucked out of the air.
“I tried to stop, but I had no control,” Budnick explained after the game. “From then on, the whole thing escalated. I got hit twice after that (in the back and wrist), and I know for a fact that one of them (the first pitch of a fifth-inning at-bat with two outs and the bases empty) was intentional.
“There was definitely some trash-talking. But I definitely didn’t do it on purpose — I swear on my life.”
When it came to the final result, the more important pitches came in the bottom of the fifth. Budnick got Kentwood’s Taylor Jones to fly out to leftfield to start the inning, but the Conquerors followed that with two doubles, three singles and a sacrifice before a pick-off play at third base mercifully ended the inning with Edmonds-Woodway trailing 7-3. Despite the loss, the Warriors felt a sense of pride afterward.
“It was awesome, a fun year,” Budnick said in summing up the 2012 season.
Arenson called it “the most fun I’ve had. I had a lot of fun playing with these guys.”
Somoza was disappointed with the way the season ended, but the Edmonds-Woodway coach could find plenty of positive things in the Warriors’ run.
“I’m very proud of the guys,” he said after the final game. “We won the (Western Conference’s South Division), we made it to state for the second year in a row and it’s not very easy getting to state. … Hopefully, we keep that tradition going.”