CENTRALIA — The hot start fizzled out, but the rain and the outcome of Saturday’s trophy game couldn’t put a damper on the Mountaineers’ season as a whole.
Rainier, the plucky third-place team out of the Central 2B League, came up short against Brewster, 11-6, to finish fourth in the 2B state baseball tournament. It was the first piece of state hardware for the Mountaineers, who wrapped up the season with a 19-9 record and bid farewell to seven seniors here at Ed Wheeler Field.
“With this senior group, that’s what they planned on, from Day 1, is just to get a shot at it,” Rainier coach Mark Mounts said. “Last year we missed out … and these guys said, ‘This year, we’re getting it done.’”
They got it done in the regional round a week earlier, beating Friday Harbor and Adna to make their first-ever final four.
“With this senior group, they were ready to be here,” Mounts said. “We had missed out on the opportunity so many times, and if there was one group that it wouldn’t get too big for, it would be this senior group.”
The moment wasn’t too big for Rainier, particularly early on.
The Mountaineers came out hot, knocking four hits in the first frame to plate three runs. Jeff Ashby led things off with a double, Ricky Cruse brought in a run with a sacrifice fly, Zach Lofgren hit an RBI double and Michael Green added an RBI base hit.
After that first-inning outburst, however, the bats went silent. Brewster pitcher Joe Taylor, a senior in his last game, retired 15 batters in a row during a stretch that started at the end of the first and lasted into the sixth inning before giving up a consequence-free single to Lofgren.
“He’s a battler, man,” Mounts said. “We come out there and score three on him, and it didn’t phase him one iota, which, hey, man, that’s a good baseball player. He’s a stud, for sure.”
By that point, though, the Bears had a 10-3 lead, helped along be a handful of Rainier miscues. Two errors in the second inning led to an unearned run, and six hits and another error pushed five runs across in the third.
A throwing error in the fifth let a runner score from first on a ground ball, while a three-run double from Quincy Vassar pushed the advantage to 10-3 in the top of the sixth.
To their credit, Rainier kept things interesting in the seventh. Taylor retired the first two batters of the final inning, but hit one batter and saw Cole Reise reach base on an error. Jeff Ashby then singled to load the bases, and Jake Jeske’s ground ball bounced through the shortstop’s legs to let two runs score.
Taylor, with a pitch count of 107, was then removed, and Cruse singled off of Kade Kelpman to drive in a run and cut the lead to 11-6. Jeske, though, was caught trying to score from first on the play for the game’s final out.
Taylor worked 6 2/3 innings, striking out six with one walk and six hits.
Vassar went 3 for 4 and knocked in four runs for the Bears, while Kelpman was 2 for 3.
Lofgren was 2 for 3 for Rainier. Ashby was 2 for 4, and Cruse and Green were each 1 for 3.
Cruse also pitched into the sixth inning, allowing nine hits with two walks and a strikeout.
It was the final game for Rainier’s Cruse, Lofgren, Ashby, Cole Reise, Wyatt Coleman, Ira Reynolds, and Maceyo Brown.
Mounts said he’d miss his big senior class, and quickly called the season as a whole a success.
“Some of these kids have older brothers that have come through the program, and their older brothers missed out on it,” Mounts said, of playing on the final day of the state tournament. “It was kind of like them holding a flag for Rainier, and holding a flag for their siblings that had gone through the program, and fought, and never did it.”
BEARS 11, MOUNTAINEERS 6
Brewster 015 013 1 — 11 12 2
Rainier 300 000 3 — 6 7 6
Batteries: Brewster — Joe Taylor, Kade Kelpman (7) and Logan McGuire; Rainier — Ricky Cruse, Jake Jeske (6), Ethan Gonzales (7) and Michael Green