Jackson’s Sam Craig delivers to home against Lake Stevens during a Wesco 4A District 1/2 game on Thursday, May 11, 2023, at Funko Field in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Jackson’s Sam Craig delivers to home against Lake Stevens during a Wesco 4A District 1/2 game on Thursday, May 11, 2023, at Funko Field in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Jackson wins pitchers’ duel over Lake Stevens to reach state

Sophomore Sam Craig outduels Vikings ace Wyatt Queen as the Timberwolves win 1-0 in a bi-district tournament loser-out game.

EVERETT — The Jackson High School baseball team knew runs would be at a premium facing Lake Stevens ace Wyatt Queen with both teams’ seasons on the line.

If a run-scoring opportunity presented itself, the Timberwolves couldn’t afford to squander the chance.

Jackson received its best opportunity in the first inning and cashed in with Micah Coleman’s RBI single. The lone run was all the Timberwolves needed thanks to a stellar outing from sophomore right-hander Sam Craig.

Craig pitched a four-hit shutout and second-seeded Jackson edged fifth-seeded Lake Stevens 1-0 in a winner-to-state, loser-out Class 4A Wes-King bi-district tournament tilt Thursday at Funko Field.

“It’s the best way you can do it,” senior Coleman said of winning a nail-biter to reach state. “That’s all I can say to describe it. I just gotta say, Sam Craig, heck of a game, man.”

Craig scattered four hits and four walks over seven innings on the mound in a bounce-back performance for the Timberwolves (19-4). The sophomore took the loss in his start against Queen and Lake Stevens (15-8) during the regular season but came through with a massive performance in the most important game of Jackson’s season thus far.

“I think he was just attacking the zone and believing in himself, and he had great defense behind him,” Jackson coach Ryan Otto said. “Can’t give enough credit to Sam. He made some adjustments and came out and did great.”

The Timberwolves came through with a strong effort defensively behind Craig, including center fielder Ryan Nakajima’s diving catch to end the top of the first with a runner on and a double play in the third to erase a leadoff walk.

Jackson’s only blemish defensively came on an error to lead off the fourth, but Craig picked up his teammates by picking off the runner at first before throwing another pitch. The pickoff proved to be a difference-maker two batters later when Queen lined a double just inside the line that rolled to the wall in right field.

Craig escaped a jam with runners on first and second and two outs in the fourth with a strikeout and put an exclamation point on the victory by fanning the final batter he faced in the seventh.

“I wanted to go do it for my seniors,” Craig said, ”because I didn’t want it to be our last (game).”

Braden O’Donnell ripped the second pitch he saw into the gap in left-center for a leadoff double in the bottom of the first, advanced on a wild pitch and then came around to score on Coleman’s single that was just out of the reach of Lake Stevens’ diving third baseman. Bryan Ho’s two-out single put runners on first and second, but Queen escaped without further damage on a lineout to left field.

The Vikings’ senior was nearly untouchable after the first and didn’t allow another hit. He retired 16 of the final 18 batters he faced and allowed just three hits and one walk over a six-inning complete game, striking out six.

“You have to have really tough at-bats to even try and have a chance against a guy like that,” Otto said. “It was a huge deal to go out there and get a run to get the lead.”

The victory was the second in a row in a win-or-go-home game for the Wesco 4A champion Timberwolves, who were upset in the bi-district quarterfinals by seventh-seeded Skyline. Jackson responded with a 2-1 victory over third-seeded North Creek on Tuesday to reach Thursday’s state-clinching victory.

The Timberwolves face sixth-seeded Mount Si in the bi-district tournament’s third-place game 4 p.m. Saturday at Bannerwood Park in Bellevue.

“Couldn’t be more proud of our guys,” Otto said. “Our backs were against the wall there and we just kept fighting.”

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