BELLEVUE — The Cascade baseball team has experienced plenty of triumphs the past two seasons during its reign as back-to-back Wesco 4A champions.
But once again, clearing that one final hurdle to state proved painfully elusive.
For the second consecutive year, the Bruins’ success-filled campaign ended one win short of the state regionals.
Cascade fell 7-0 to Issaquah in Saturday night’s winner-to-state, loser-out Class 4A Wes-King Bi-District Tournament fifth-place game at Bannerwood Park.
“To be in a situation to go to state obviously is a testament to our successful season, but we just haven’t been able to get quite over that hump,” Bruins coach David Benson said. “We’ve played good baseball all the way (until) districts and the winner-to-state games, and have just kind of fallen on the wrong side of that. So it’s tough.”
It marked Cascade’s fifth consecutive loss in a winner-to-state contest over the past two seasons.
Last year, the Bruins fell to Jackson in the 4A Northwest District title game and then were within one strike of reaching state before suffering a heartbreaking season-ending loss to Mount Vernon.
Cascade (16-8) opened this year’s bi-district tournament with a 3-1 win over Issaquah in last Saturday’s quarterfinals to once again move within one win of state.
But the Bruins then lost all three of their winner-to-state contests this week, falling to Inglemoor in Tuesday’s bi-district semifinals and to Eastlake on Friday before dropping Saturday’s win-or-go-home rematch to Issaquah.
“(Only) one team gets to win their last game every year,” Benson said. “That wasn’t us unfortunately, … but I couldn’t be more proud of this group.”
Benson pointed to his team’s accomplished senior class, which contributed to three Wesco 4A titles in the past four seasons.
“We always ask, ‘What’s your legacy going to be?’” Benson said. “And these seniors showed that if you put in the hard work and you buy into the family vibe and the grit and the approach, you’re going to be there in the end. You never want to look at this as a loss of a season, because what they accomplished to get to where they are is truly remarkable.”
KingCo No. 4 seed Issaquah (16-9) stormed in front with a four-run second inning on a pair of run-scoring singles and a Tyler Reese two-run base hit. The Eagles added two more runs in the third and another in the fifth to extend their lead to 7-0.
“They came out and swung it pretty well tonight,” Benson said. “They took advantage of a couple of bases-on-balls and then they just got the hits when it mattered and kind of killed our will from the very beginning. … When the (opposing) team puts up a crooked number and you’re down early, it’s hard to scratch back in a tense playoff game.”
Issaquah starter Joseph Warner pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings and scattered seven hits. The junior right-hander struck out three and walked none.
“Their guy came out and he pounded the zone,” Benson said. “He was constantly working ahead. … (Issaquah) did enough things to get the win tonight, and we didn’t. We ran into some baseballs, but we couldn’t string together multiple hits.”
Issaquah, which finished in a three-way tie for second place in KingCo 4A, claimed its third consecutive state berth with the win.
“I can see them giving teams a run for their money,” Benson said. “That’s a pretty good team over there.”
Cascade bids farewell to nine seniors, but appears to still have a bright future with a strong junior class.
“I wouldn’t trade this group in for anything,” Benson said. “This group is extremely hard-working, and if we continue to put ourselves in situations like this, eventually we’re going to find a way and get to where we want to be.”