SNOHOMISH — Less than 24 hours after being dealt a crushing walk-off loss in extra innings, the Panthers found themselves on the winning side of a walk-off finish.
The Snohomish baseball team erased a late three-run deficit and rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh, punching its ticket to state with a 5-4 comeback win over visiting Marysville Pilchuck in a Class 3A District 1 loser-out game Wednesday.
The state-clinching victory came one day after a nine-inning district semifinal loss to Edmonds-Woodway, which was the second time in less than two weeks that the Panthers had lost to the Warriors in walk-off fashion.
“It really burst our bubble,” Snohomish coach Kim Hammons said of Tuesday’s loss. “I mean, we were down. The bus ride home from Meridian Park, there was not one word said. Everybody was down.
“They were really feeling the emotions of that game,” he added, “and they came in today and they found a way. … So hats off to the kids. They got it done after a very emotional game the day before.”
The win advances the Panthers (16-7) to the state tournament for the third consecutive season. Snohomish lost five all-conference selections from last year’s 4A state quarterfinal team — including current Oregon State University star reliever Jake Mulholland — but plenty of Panthers stepped up this spring to continue the program’s run of success.
“(The seniors) had to be the core group that would lead us to this point, and they did,” Hammons said. “And then all the sophomores and juniors that came up to varsity from the JV team (and) had never played varsity before, they just really rose to the occasion.”
With Snohomish trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh, Brandon Jodock hammered a line drive that deflected off Pilchuck reliever Tyler Devries’ glove for a leadoff base hit. Two batters later, Zach Boswell walked to put runners on first and second.
That set the stage for junior Christian Hill, who drove in the tying run by clobbering a one-out double off the upper portion of the high fence in left field. It was the second double of the game for Hill, a first-year varsity player.
Then with runners on second and third, Pilchuck (12-11) intentionally walked Jaden McClure to load the bases with one out. That brought Chase Taylor to the plate, and the junior drew a full-count, bases-loaded walk to bring home the winning run and send the Panthers to state.
“This team has no give-up,” Snohomish senior standout Kyle Sandifer said. “I don’t know one guy on here who would give up. We just have so much heart and will to win.”
The Tomahawks broke a 1-1 tie with a run in the fourth and added two more runs in the fifth on RBI singles by Eric Anderson and Colby Phelps that extended their lead to 4-1.
But the Panthers chipped into the deficit their next two trips to the plate.
In the fifth, Sandifer led off with a single and came around to score. Then after loading the bases with no outs in the sixth, Snohomish pushed across a run to cut the margin to 4-3.
Sandifer made a brilliant defensive play at shortstop in the top of the seventh, barehanding a slow roller and throwing out the runner at first to help keep it a one-run game.
The Panthers then rallied in the seventh for their second walk-off victory over Pilchuck this season. On April 18, Snohomish came from behind to earn a 4-3 eight-inning win over the Tomahawks.
“They’ve just been the cardiac kids all year long,” Hammons said. “A lot of good rallies. It’s a real tribute to them.”
The Panthers will face Arlington in Saturday’s district third-place game, which will determine seeding for the May 20 state regionals.
For Pilchuck, this marks the fourth consecutive season that the Tomahawks have fallen one win short of state. But in the moments after Wednesday’s season-ending loss, Pilchuck coach James Day took solace in the future of his youth-laden program.
“We’ve got three seniors,” Day said. “We’re going to have 12 returners and a lot of good freshmen coming up to fill some spots. … Heck of a year for us. We’ve got pretty much all of our pitchers returning, too. So (it’s) a bright future for Tomahawk baseball.”