MONROE — Connor Olmstead has a simple strategy when he finds himself in a jam on the pitcher’s mound: take four deep breaths, then hop back on the mound and make the pitch.
That worked to near-perfection Saturday when the senior Lake Stevens hurler fanned seven and worked out of several jams as the Vikings eliminated the host Monroe Bearcats from the 4A District 1 playoffs with a 2-0 win at Monroe High School.
“It’s something I’ve definitely developed over the years,” Olmstead said. “I have to give props to a lot of my coaches for that. Just a lot of experience in big games and stuff that my coaches have allowed me to go out there and get the experience and bear down and do the job.”
The victory gave Lake Stevens (12-9) the win in the rubber match against the Bearcats (13-8) and propels the Vikings into the double-elimination portion of the tournament where they will take on top-seeded Mount Vernon on Monday. Lake Stevens split its two regular-season meetings with the Bulldogs (15-5).
On Saturday, Olmstead scattered five hits and walked three to out-duel Monroe starter Trestyn Dumilieu.
“(Olmstead) is a guy who has been competing since Day 1 and just seems to get stronger as we go,” Lake Stevens head coach Josh White said. “If we had a staff like that it would be really easy to be a coach. But he does a really good job of working with runners on base. He doesn’t let that get to him.”
Olmstead worked around a walk and a hit in the first inning to preserve a 1-0 lead, then escaped a bases-lowaded, two-out situation in the second. The senior took advantage of a double play to face the minimum in the next two innings, then worked around a leadoff walk in the fifth and a two-out double in the sixth.
Evidently his deep breaths did the trick.
“The thing I was looking forward to is that they are one of the teams that didn’t see me pitch this year,” Olmstead said of the Bearcats. “I knew it was my turn to come out here and do a job.”
The Vikings got the only run they needed in the top of the first. Luke Partington led off with a single to right before back-to-back balks from Dumilieu put him at third base. Partington came home on an RBI groundout by Conor Bardue.
“That’s baseball — you gotta take advantage,” said White, a former Lake Stevens baseball star in his first year as head coach of the Vikings and fourth year with the program. “Sometimes it bounces your way, sometimes it doesn’t. Monroe is a really good team.”
Lake Stevens gave itself some breathing room in the fifth. Partington once again led off with a single and Colton Richards followed with another single. After a groundout, the Bearcats elected to walk William Wentz intentionally to load the bases. Dumilieu then hit Quinlan Hayes with a pitch to force in the game’s other run.
Justin Folz singled twice and JD Merwin singled and doubled to lead the Monroe offense.
Third-seeded Jackson defeated sixth-seeded Cascade 4-3 in eight innings in Saturday’s other loser-out contest and will take on second-seeded Glacier Peak on Monday. The Jackson-Glacier Peak winner will face the Mount Vernon-Lake Stevens winner in a winner-to-state contest Thursday at Meridian Park Fields in Shoreline.