EVERETT — Things took a turn south for the Jackson baseball team in the fourth inning of Thursday’s win-or-go-home contest.
Ace pitcher Case Matter exited with an arm issue. Mount Si jumped in front to take the lead. And the Wildcats were threatening to add on.
But with a shutdown relief performance by freshman Dominic Hellman and a fifth-inning offensive outburst, the Timberwolves rebounded to keep their season alive.
Jackson exploded for a six-run fifth inning to beat Mount Si 8-2 in a loser-out Class 4A Wes-King Bi-District Tournament opening-round game at Funko Field at Everett Memorial Stadium.
“We’d seen the (pitcher) a couple times around, and I thought we got good at-bats and we didn’t miss what we had given to us,” Timberwolves coach Kirk Nicholson said of his team’s fifth-inning eruption. “No more fly balls. We hit some line drives. We had our top three guys back-to-back-to-back (with) some great (hits), and after that, we just kind of got everything done.”
The victory advanced Wesco No. 3 seed Jackson to the double-elimination portion of the 12-team bi-district tournament, setting up a quarterfinal matchup against KingCo No. 2 seed Inglemoor at 10 a.m. Saturday at Bannerwood Park in Bellevue. The top five finishers in the bi-district tournament earn 4A state regional berths.
“Our mindset going into this game (was) win and you get to play (at least) a couple more games,” Hellman said.
Jackson led 1-0 in the top of the fourth inning when Matter — the Timberwolves’ top pitcher — exited the game early with a pair of runners on base.
“Case had a little bit of tightness two days ago,” Nicholson said. “… (In) that fourth inning, he went out there and we saw something was wrong.”
Mount Si’s Cam Ferreri, the ensuing batter, promptly lined a two-run double to the fence to give the KingCo No. 6-seeded Wildcats a 2-1 lead.
Then after a hit batter put another runner on base, Jackson (15-6) handed the ball to Hellman. The tall freshman right-hander escaped the jam and steadied the Timberwolves, pitching 3 2/3 innings of no-hit ball in relief. He struck out two, walked one and retired 11 of the 12 batters he faced — including the final nine to close the game.
“My freshman was fantastic,” Nicholson said. “I thought Dominic was unbelievably good. Came in, mixed up his pitches — fastball, changeup, curveball. No one ever got a clean look at him. I thought he did great.”
Jackson had just two hits through four innings, but that quickly changed with its six-run outburst in the fifth. The Timberwolves opened the inning with six consecutive singles and sent 11 batters to the plate in the frame.
“I had my best batters up, and they did a nice job,” Nicholson said. “My top guys all hit the ball hard.”
Matter and Ben Steck began the fifth-inning eruption with back-to-back singles, and Jeremy Vierra followed by driving in the game-tying run on a groundball base hit past a diving Mount Si second baseman. Ryan Contreras and Bradley Lundquist then added back-to-back run-scoring singles to give Jackson a 4-2 lead.
Chris Grayson drew a bases-loaded walk later in the frame, and Matter broke the contest wide-open with a line-drive two-run single to make it 7-2.
Jackson entered the postseason having scored six runs combined in its previous four games. The Timberwolves matched that total Thursday in the fifth inning alone.
Matter, Contreras, Lundquist and Jaggar Endresen each finished with a pair of hits for the Timberwolves.
“(We had) really good at-bats,” Nicholson said.
Jackson struck first in the opening frame, taking an early 1-0 lead on a two-out single by Contreras. That remained the score until Mount Si (9-12) jumped in front in the fourth.
But just when things began turning south for the Timberwolves, Hellman was there to stop the damage and help them get back on track.
“Dom came out and pitched very well,” Contreras said. “… I thought that was very clutch, especially (with) Case not feeling his greatest. It was really huge.”