Snohomish Panthers lose to Richland

SEATTLE – It took 27 games, but the Snohomish Panthers finally acted their age on Saturday night.

The young Panthers, who had just one senior in the starting lineup and two on the entire roster, saw their remarkable baseball season come to an end after a nerve-wracking, mistake-filled performance in the 4A state championship game. Second-ranked Richland took advantage of every Snohomish misstep and breezed to a 7-3 victory at Safeco Field.

“We were just a hair tight,” Snohomish coach Kim Hammons said after the game. “… Youth plays a part in that. But then again, look at all the experience they gained here (in the state tournament).”

Snohomish, which upset top-ranked Tahoma in a near-flawless semifinal performance on Friday afternoon, struggled from the get-go in Saturday’s championship. Two first-inning errors opened the door for the Bombers (24-2) to score a pair of runs. The inning included a ground ball that forced two Snohomish players run into each other as well as a botched rundown with two outs that allowed Richland’s second run to score.

At one point, Snohomish coach Kim Hammons came out to the mound to try to get his team calmed down.

“Everything went their way,” said starting pitcher Nick Hammons, the coach’s son and the lone senior in the starting lineup. “We haven’t made an error in the last 10 games, I don’t think, and we had two or three (in Saturday’s game).”

Richland has six seniors, some of whom were part of the 2005 state championship team. And Richland’s sophomore class, which includes three starters, played in the 2003 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

Richland’s Kevin Lathim drove in two runs in the second, then added an RBI triple and scored on a wild pitch to give Richland a 6-1 lead in the fourth. He had hits in each of his first three at-bats, finishing the game 3-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored.

Snohomish’s lone run of the first six innings came in the bottom of the second, when Brian Wolfe doubled and scored on an Aaron West ground ball that went through the legs of the Richland shortstop.

West had a solid outing out of the Snohomish bullpen, but it came too late to save the Panthers (22-5). He replaced starter Nick Hammons (6-2) in the fourth and retired seven consecutive batters before Richland finally got a hit off him.

Hammons, the only senior in the lineup, had a chance to get the Panthers back in the game with his bat. But Richland centerfielder Marcelino Morales tracked down his long fly ball to record the final out of the fifth inning with three Panther runners on base.

Snohomish added two runs in the bottom of the seventh, but by then the outcome had already been determined.

Prairie’s Nick Leid (6-0) allowed an unearned run off four hits in six innings of work.

Prairie won its second state title in three years and third since 1999. Snohomish was trying to win its first title since 1998, when the Panthers beat Sehome to win the 4A crown.

Afterward, Snohomish was able to look at this year’s near-miss as a success story.

“Quite honestly,” Kim Hammons admitted, “we were just glad to be here.”

The game included two hard collisions, both of which left the Panthers momentarily stunned.

Richland’s Lathim bowled over catcher Tom Chandler on a first-inning putout at home, causing Kim Hammons to confer with the umpire.

In the top of the seventh, Nick Hammons was knocked to the dirt while playing first base. Nick Hammons was straddling the bag, his entire body open as he tried to catch a throw from West. Richland’s Ben Nipper, who had hit a soft ground ball, forearmed Hammons in the chest and left the Snohomish senior lying in the dirt for more than two minutes.

Nipper was ruled out because of interference, while Hammons eventually went back to the dugout under his own power.

That play seemed to fire up the Panthers, and the Snohomish fans who were among the 3,733 in attendance. Snohomish loaded the bases with no one out in the bottom of the seventh and got an RBI from Braden Allen and Derek Jones before the rally was squashed.

In the end, it was not enough.

But if there’s an advantage to youth, it’s that the Panthers should have the firepower to make it back.

“We definitely should be a contender for a state title next year,” said Nick Hammons, who will play baseball at Everett Community College next season. “I’m looking forward to coming back and watching them play at Safeco next year.”

At Safeco Field



Leid, Chunn (7) and Nipper. Hammons, West (4) and Chandler. WP-Leid (6-0). LP-Hammons (6-2). 2B-R: Lundgren. 3B-R: Lathim. Records-Richland 24-2; Snohomish 22-5.

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