PASCO — In a matchup of two teams who prefer to play small ball, Friday’s Washington Interscholastic Activities Association 3A baseball state tournament semifinal game between Edmonds-Woodway and Kelso was decided by the most minuscule of margins.
Warriors reliever Julian Kodama walked the Hilanders’ Ben Bergonzine with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, giving Kelso a 5-4 win.
It was a crushing loss for an Edmonds-Woodway squad that battled Kelso the whole way; neither team led by more than one run at any point.
“That’s the way baseball works,” Edmonds-Woodway coach Dan Somoza said. “It’s tough, but our guys left it all on the field, and not many teams can say they were in the semifinals back-to-back years. These guys put a lot of time in with the goal of winning the whole thing. We came out and played hard, but we had too many walks and hit batsmen. You can’t do that.”
The Warriors (16-10) walked four batters and hit four more, but were able to manufacture runs against Kelso starter Cheyton Whitwright, scoring four times in his 4 2/3 innings.
Leadoff man Sam Alvarado reached base three times for Edmonds-Woodway, and Gunnar Whitelaw went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored, but the Warriors let two gilt-edged offensive chances slip.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the fifth, freshman Remy Heckman lofted a fly ball down the left field line that landed about a foot foul. He flew out to center on the next pitch to end the threat.
With runners on first and second in the sixth, Kodama and cleanup man Thomas Blahous each barreled up balls from Kelso reliever John Roberts, but their line drives were right at Hilanders outfielders.
“The breaks just didn’t go our way today,” Somoza said.
Roberts, a right-hander, replaced the southpaw Whitwright on the mound with two outs in the fifth and got the Warriors to lunge at outside fastballs. He allowed only a bunt single in 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
Junior Ian Michael battled through six innings for the Warriors, allowing eight hits and five runs, only two of which were earned. He walked two and hit three Kelso batters.
Michael was lifted after hitting Roberts to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Kodama entered and plunked Whitwright to put runners at first and second. A sacrifice bunt moved runners to second and third, and an intentional free pass to Taite Hensley set up the walk-off walk.
The Warriors play the loser of Friday’s semifinal between Eastside Catholic and Southridge at 1 p.m. Saturday for third and fourth places. Kelso (19-8) plays the winner for the championship.
Edmonds-Woodway finished fourth last season for its best-ever showing at a state baseball tournament since the two high schools merged. The Warriors’ motivation Saturday will be to improve on that.
“It’ll be one last game together,” Somoza said. “We’re going to get some people some time who have put a lot of time into our program, and try to make it a team win.”