EVERETT — Pitching is vital in baseball’s state regionals, with teams needing to win two games in one day to reach the state semifinals.
And the Jackson baseball team couldn’t have asked for much better pitching in Saturday’s regional at Everett Memorial Stadium.
Alec Schuldt and Case Matter allowed just two runs combined in the Timberwolves’ two regional games, giving their team more than a fighting chance of earning a trip to Pasco for next Friday’s semifinals.
But while Jackson mustered enough offense to win the morning’s regional opener, several inning-ending outs on the base paths proved costly in the afternoon’s regional final.
The Timberwolves’ postseason run ended in the Class 4A state quarterfinals with a 2-1 loss to Skyview.
“Only one (4A) team in this entire state has a good ending to their year,” Jackson coach Kirk Nicholson said. “And unfortunately we’re not that team now. But it isn’t that we didn’t do everything right to get us to be that team.”
In the regional opener, Schuldt pitched a three-hit shutout to lead Jackson to a 3-0 win over South Kitsap. The senior right-hander took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, helping the Timberwolves (16-7) advance to the state quarterfinals for the first time since their 2011 run to the state title game.
Matter, who threw 6 2/3 innings of no-hit ball in Jackson’s district title-game win nine days prior, followed with a strong performance in Saturday’s regional final against Skyview.
After yielding a pair of first-inning runs, the sophomore right-hander settled in and didn’t allow a run the rest of the way. He pitched a complete game, scattering five hits and two walks.
“They both threw really well today,” Nicholson said. “They’re two of the best (pitchers) in this area right now.”
However, the Timberwolves struggled to provide run support in the season-ending loss. Jackson tallied eight hits and 11 total base runners, but committed three inning-ending outs on the base paths.
Jackson’s first scoring chance came in the bottom of the first, with a runner on second base and two outs. Diego Altamirano grounded a single into left field, but Skyview’s Max Rose came charging in and fired a one-hop strike to throw out the runner at the plate.
The Timberwolves had another opportunity in the third. With the bases loaded and one out, Bradley Lundquist sent a fly ball to center field that would’ve been deep enough to score the runner from third, who tagged up on the catch.
However, the runner on second base slipped after tagging up and was caught too far off the bag. Skyview center fielder Carter Hill alertly threw to shortstop Noah Guyette, who tagged the runner for the inning-ending out.
Because the runner on second was tagged out before the runner on third crossed home plate, the Storm (21-5) escaped the jam with their 2-0 lead still in tact.
Jackson then committed another inning-ending out in the fourth while trying to stretch a double into a triple.
“We had a couple of situations that didn’t work out for us today in that final game,” Nicholson said. “Some base-running situations happened, but those are things that happen in ballgames.”
The Timberwolves rallied in the bottom of the seventh with a two-out single by Kyle Serres that scored Chris Grayson to make it 2-1. But with the tying run aboard, Skyview reliever Ryan Pitts struck out Jackson’s final batter on a game-ending called third strike, sending the Storm to the semifinals.
Skyview starter Cooper Barnum pitched six-plus innings, allowing one earned run on seven hits. Pitts drove in both of the Storm’s runs on a two-out triple to the left-center field gap in the first inning, giving Skyview a 2-0 lead it never relinquished.
“It’s been a great run from this group of kids,” Nicholson said. “Fantastic kids. … We’re truly a family.”
FINAL: Jackson 3, South Kitsap 0.
Jackson senior Alec Schuldt pitched a three-hit shutout. T-wolves advance to the 4A state quarterfinals later this afternoon against either Skyview or Inglemoor. pic.twitter.com/fXO0s4PFav
— Cameron Van Til (@CameronVanTil) May 19, 2018