SHORELINE — The rivalry between the Lynnwood and Shorewood baseball teams has been forged by the squads’ mutual success and postseason duels during the past few seasons. The Royals and Thunderbirds tied for the Wesco 3A South title along with Glacier Peak last year, and entered the 2017 season as favorites to finish on top of the conference once again.
Based on their first matchup of the season Tuesday at Meridian Park, it sure looks like the teams are evenly matched.
“I expect them to be at the top of the league with us,” Lynnwood coach Fraser Dizard said after his team beat Shorewood 3-2 in nine innings. “We know them well, and have a history with them for sure. We’ve had some close games in the last few years, (so) we knew (Tuesday’s game) would be close.”
It certainly was, thanks to two sterling pitching performances. The Royals’ Jared Whitman pitched seven innings, allowing two runs and eight base-runners while striking out six. Thunderbirds ace Tanner Oxnevad was even better, giving up two runs while allowing just four base-runners (three hits, none after the first inning) and striking out eight.
With the game tied 2-2, Lynnwood’s Connor Combs led off the top of the ninth inning with a bloop double and eventually scored the go-ahead run on a long fly ball to left field by Kyler McMahan. Combs then worked around a hit-by-pitch to close out Shorewood in the bottom half of the frame.
“Jared pitched an incredible game, we played good defense and we got some clutch hits,” said McMahan, who recorded a double, stolen base and run scored. “We knew it would be a pitchers’ duel. We made sure we had enough energy in the dugout and supported each other. This is a good rivalry, and we knew it was important to get this win.”
The Royals (6-1 overall, 3-1 Wesco 3A South) advanced to the 3A state quarterfinal round last season and appear to have the talent for another postseason run this spring.
“We’ve played well, but we can always play better. I expect a lot out of our guys,” Dizard said. “Our goals every year are to win the league title, district title and state title. Those are high standards, but we feel we can beat any team on any given day.”
Early on, the Thunderbirds (5-2, 3-1) have been bolstered by their pitching staff, led by Oxnevad and Will Smith.
“Our pitching and defense usually do well, and if we can start to hit better, we’ll be OK,” Shorewood coach Wyatt Tonkin said. “We had a rough start, but by the end of the season we should be around the top (of the conference). It’s fun to play (Lynnwood) — it’s a competitive, healthy rivalry.”