CENTRALIA, Wash. – The Almira/Coulee-Hartline Warriors appeared poised to win the State 1B baseball title on Saturday, but after building an early lead their gloves went wonky and their bats turned cold.
After plating their first two batters of the game, and another in the second inning, the Warriors went scoreless the rest of the way and Pomeroy captured the state championship with a 6-3 victory.
“Their guy, he settled down and started getting to us. If you watch any MLB games, you know that when the other team has their ace going and he’s in trouble in the first inning you better jump on him then otherwise he’s going to settle in on you,” said Almira/Coulee-Hartline coach Mike Correia.
Indeed, Pomeroy starter Hogan Heytvelt was a mess in the first inning. Of the first four batters he faced Heytvelt walked three and hit another. The free passes led to the Warriors’ first run when a walk to Mac Isaak brought home Chase Gerald before a groundout from Kam Goetz scored Hayden Loomis. However, in an inning where the Warriors had the bases loaded, no outs and a run in without having to swing the bat, Heytvelt was lucky to escape with just two runs allowed.
In the second inning Heytvelt allowed Charles Hunt to score on a sacrifice fly from Dalton Kentner. That would be all the good news for the Warriors offense as Heytvelt locked in to strike out five and allow just two hits in five innings of work.
ACH starting pitcher Kentner turned in a solid performance of his own, going six innings and allowing just three hits and two earned runs while striking out five batters.
“Unfortunately, our pitcher kept us in it but he had to throw too much. Just too many errors. Too many outs left on the field,” said Correia.
After posting the go-ahead run in the sixth inning on a triple from Ryan Wolf that scored Cort LaMunyan, the Pirates added two insurance runs in the top of the seventh off of relief pitcher Ryan Sample. Facing Pomeroy closer Jace Gwinn the Warriors were put away in order in the bottom half of the inning to end their season.
Despite the championship loss, Correia was not in a mood to hang his head after the game. Instead he gathered his players for a lengthy, heartfelt talk and a moment of reflection. Correia said he couldn’t imagine reacting any other way.
“I told them, ‘If you’re not good without the trophy you’re not going to be good with the trophy,’” said Correia. “I mean, if you’re not a good man without it, there’s no way you will be a good man with it either.”
With just three seniors on the team Correia is excited about what the future may hold for his team, particularly with the pang of defeat to serve as extra motivation.
“To really battle in this setting, I thought we were a year or two away, so to get here and play in this position already, I’m really proud of them,” insisted Correia.