Mountaineers overwhelmed by Ducks’ power in doubleheader loss

Rainier swept by combined score of 28-3


Through the first 15 games of the season, the Rainier High School baseball team had yet to face an opponent with the slugging ability of the Toutle Lake Ducks.

The Ducks proved why they are the top dog in the Central 2B League, sweeping a doubleheader against the Mountaineers on Monday, April 22, with two five-inning mercy rule victories. Rainier was shut out, 13-0, in the first contest before losing, 15-3, in the second. Toutle Lake cranked eight extra-base hits across the doubleheader, including two home runs.

“That is a tough team that is physically going to overpower teams with their bats and with their pitching,” Rainier head coach Justin Gurnsey said of Toutle Lake. “They were just dynamic. We were outmanned, and we’re young and don’t have a lot of depth. That’s a team that is where we want to be.”

With Hunter Howell on the mound for the Mountaineers in the doubleheader opener, the Ducks took a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning before exploding for seven runs in the second. Toutle Lake ran Howell off the mound in the frame with an 8-0 lead as the junior allowed three walks, hit three batters and surrendered four hits, the most damaging of which coming on a three-run triple, in the inning.

Ducks starter Dylan Fraidenburg frustrated Rainier’s offense as the Mountaineers were held without a hit through four innings. By the time senior Jared Sprouffske logged the first Rainier base hit, the Mountaineers trailed 13-0 in the bottom of the fifth. Connor Cox’s two-run home run in the fourth off of Rainier’s Johnny Boesch cemented Toutle Lake’s game one victory.

The Mountaineers’ offense immediately bounced back in game two, responding to the Ducks’ two first-inning runs off of Ryder Cruse with two runs of their own. Howell and Dayton Gardner each drove in a run to tie the game at 2-2.

Toutle Lake took back the lead on an RBI sacrifice fly before breaking the game open with an RBI double by Cox and a three-run home run by Easton White. The Ducks continued to pad their lead with two runs in the third, and six in the fourth. The fourth inning was disastrous for Rainier, as reliever Gardner suffered a leg injury following through on a pitch.

“It definitely hurts our depth,” Gurnsey said of Gardner’s injury. “As a reliever, he comes in and throws strikes. His off-speed stuff is dynamite. He’s been such a reliable force for us, so that’s definitely going to hurt.”

Gurnsey praised Boesch and Jared Sprouffske for their efforts in relief on Monday. Sprouffske pitched 1 ⅓ innings of no-hit ball in game two, striking out two and walking two. Boesch pitched 3 ⅔ innings in game one, allowing five runs, three earned, on two hits and one walk. The senior struck out two batters.

“Jared was a flamethrower out there today. His leadership was great. Johnny is a hidden gem out there. He’s got the nasty forkball and off-speed stuff,” Gurnsey said.

The Mountaineers (7-10, 7-9 C2BL) are down to their final two games of the regular season against Napavine, first with senior day on Friday, April 26 at 3 p.m. and second on the road on Saturday, April 27 at 12 p.m. Gurnsey hopes his team can improve its seeding for the district tournament with a win or two over the Tigers (13-3, 13-3 C2BL).

“I don’t want them to stress too much. I want them to stay within themselves and just know that we can do it. We match up really well with Napavine,” Gurnsey said. “If we can get our pitching solid, our defense playing the way they’ve improved and put the bat on the ball, I think we have a good chance to steal one if not two.”