EDMONDS — Three days prior, the Edmonds-Woodway High School baseball team was on the wrong end of a one-run, extra-inning loss.
The Warriors flipped the script Tuesday.
And in doing so, they kept their season alive.
Jacob Gabler tossed another masterpiece and Jack Beers drove in Grant Oliver with a walkoff sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth, lifting No. 15 seed Edmonds-Woodway to a 2-1 extra-inning win over No. 18 seed Gig Harbor in a Class 3A state play-in round game.
“It felt great, especially after Saturday, to be on that winning side,” Oliver said. “… It’s much better to be in the dog pile than watching it.”
With the victory, the Warriors (15-10) advanced to the 3A state regionals on Saturday.
Edmonds-Woodway will face No. 2 seed Lake Washington at 10 a.m. at Mount Si High School. The winner of that game advances to face either No. 7 seed Lynnwood or No. 10 seed Mt. Spokane later in the afternoon for a trip to the following week’s 3A state semifinals in Pasco.
“We’ve had so many one-run and close games,” said Warriors assistant coach Will Budnick, who was filling in with head coach Dan Somoza unavailable for the game. “They’re kind of battle-tested for it. And there is no quit in this team, man. They will fight to the last breath.”
Edmonds-Woodway mustered just two hits through the first seven innings of Tuesday’s state play-in clash, which turned into a fast-moving pitcher’s duel between Gabler and Gig Harbor sophomore Ryland Heckman.
It was reminiscent of Saturday’s 3A District 1 Tournament championship game, when the Warriors squandered a brilliant pitching performance by Gibby Marshall-Inman in a 1-0 eight-inning loss to Lynnwood.
But the tide turned in the bottom of the eighth, when Oliver led off by pulling a 1-2 fastball from Heckman to left field. The ball soared just past the left fielder’s outstretched glove and bounced to the wall for a double.
“I got down 0-2 early and just thought, ‘Put the ball in play. Get the job done,’” Oliver said. “And then I saw that inside fastball (and) turned on it.”
Marshall-Inman then laid down a perfectly placed bunt in front of home plate. The tall senior not only advanced Oliver to third with the bunt, but also beat the throw to first with a headfirst slide.
That put runners on the corners for Gabler, who had doubled back in the first inning. Gig Harbor (13-13) elected to intentionally walk the senior No. 3 hitter for the second time in the game, which loaded the bases for Beers with no outs.
Beers then lofted an 0-1 curveball to center field, which was deep enough for Oliver to tag up and beat the relay throw home. Oliver dived headfirst across home plate for the winning run and then tossed his helmet in celebration before getting mobbed by his teammates.
Oliver and his teammates then chased after Beers and enjoyed a frenzied celebration with him near second base.
“I just love this team,” Beers said. “I love the guys. I love everything. I love the coaches. And I’m just so happy we get (more time) with them.”
Edmonds-Woodway’s walkoff win was made possible by yet another gem from Gabler.
The tall right-hander struck out 14 of the 25 batters he faced during seven masterful innings, while keeping Gig Harbor off-balanced all afternoon with a mix of hard fastballs and devastating curveballs. He allowed no earned runs, one unearned run, three hits and only one walk.
And as the game went on, Gabler seemed to get even more dominant. He retired each of the last 11 batters he faced, including a stretch of six consecutive punchouts while striking out the side in the fifth and sixth innings.
“That’s just the usual for him these days,” Beers said. “He goes out there and he shoves. … It’s awesome.”
Gabler has tossed 37 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. He has a mere 0.40 earned-run average in 52 innings pitched, with 103 strikeouts and just 17 walks.
Gabler is part of a dominant senior pitching duo with Oregon State University-bound Marshall-Inman, who has a 0.56 ERA with 73 strikeouts and 25 walks in 50 innings.
This postseason, the two Edmonds-Woodway aces have tossed a combined 33 1/3 innings without yielding an earned run.
“When you’ve got 1 and 1A in Gibby and Jacob, you’ve got a chance in every game,” Budnick said.
Heckman pitched 7 1/3 strong innings for Gig Harbor, allowing one earned run, one unearned run and two hits. He struck out two batters and walked four.
Gabler helped himself in the bottom of the first, when he launched a two-out double over the center fielder’s head. Then after Gig Harbor’s shortstop fielded a groundball and sailed an errant throw to first, courtesy runner Nathanuel Marinez came around to score and give the Warriors a 1-0 lead.
Gig Harbor scored its lone run in the third inning. After the Tides reached on a one-out walk and a single, an errant throw on a back pick from Edmonds-Woodway’s catcher allowed the runners to advance to second and third. Brady Altman then hit a deep sacrifice fly to center field, which tied the game at 1-1.
Gig Harbor threatened to take the lead in the fourth after Heckman lined a one-out triple to center field on a slicing ball that was misplayed. But Gabler coolly escaped the jam, retiring the next two batters with a strikeout and an inning-ending groundout. He didn’t allow another base runner the rest of the way.
With Gabler just three pitches shy of the 105-pitch limit, senior reliever Jonah Brower entered at the start of the eighth inning for the Warriors. Brower pitched a scoreless frame, working around a one-out walk with a flyout and a groundout to keep the game tied.
Edmonds-Woodway then broke through in the bottom of the eighth, winning in walkoff fashion to earn its fourth consecutive trip to the 3A state regionals.
The Warriors made back-to-back state semifinal appearances in 2017 and 2018, followed by another state regional trip in 2019. The coronavirus pandemic led to the cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 postseasons.
“We’ve been in a lot of (close) games this year, and I think that really just makes us experienced in the ways of postseason baseball,” Beers said. “… We can come through in those clutch situations.”
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