YAKIMA – St. John-Endicott baseball coach Rick Winters was sure he had the right guy for the mission.
Mason Van Lith, Winters believed, was the pitcher who could keep his team in the game long enough to give the Eagles a chance to knock off defending champion Almira/Coulee-Hartline’s powerhouse Warriors.
Van Lith did just that and more on Saturday night at Parker Field, holding ACH to just three runs as the Eagles won their first State 1B baseball title with a 10-3 victory over the Warriors.
“That’s Mason,” Winters, who hails from nearby Toppenish, said with a smile. “He gets tougher as he gets warmer.”
That’s exactly what happened on an unseasonably chilly late spring evening. Van Lith scattered four hits – only one after the first inning – and controlled the game. In the process, he snapped ACH’s five-game state tournament winning streak.
After scoring two runs in the first, the Warriors couldn’t get anything done despite ample opportunity. ACH had men on second and third in the second inning and Derek Issak was picked off second base in the third inning.
St. John-Endicott kept grinding away. The Eagles needed just five hits to score five runs over the first three innings.
In the third, they capitalized on back-to-back bases-loaded hit batsmen to score two runs after a fielder’s choice and a single by Sam Raynor set the table.
After giving up two runs in the first, Van Lith cruised into the sixth inning. He faced just one batter over the minimum in the second through fifth innings and got out of a two-on, no-out jam in the sixth with an outfield fly and a double play.
The Eagles cracked the game open in the sixth inning, scoring five runs on three hits. The big blow was a two-out, bases-loaded triple by Dallas Hallenius.