YAKIMA — As the Tumwater High School baseball baseball players exited the visitors clubhouse at Yakima County Stadium, the sting of their Class 2A state championship loss fresh on their minds, the Thunderbirds were welcomed by rousing applause and congratulatory hugs.
The players had a lot to be proud of, parents, coaches and fans said. A second-place finish after a 12-0 five-inning loss to W.F. West during Sunday’s all-2A Evergreen Conference title game was nothing to hang their heads about.
Coaches made sure players looked at the big picture: A runner-up state trophy in baseball was a first for the Thunderbirds (18-8), who had made five previous trips to the state playoffs.
Baseball joins Tumwater football, volleyball and boys track as runner-up finishers during the 2012-13 school year.
“No one thought we would get this far,” said junior outfielder Garrett Terrell, who threw a complete-game, four-hitter in Saturday’s semifinal win over Archbishop Murphy. “This is a big step for our program, especially us making it this far.
“I think it shocked everyone once we got here, but with the experience the next couple of years, we may be able to scrape out a few wins over here.”
Terrell was the only T-Birds player to have success offensively against W.F. West starting pitcher Keylen Steen, accounting for two of the team’s three hits – including a first-inning double.
The Bearcats (24-3) pounded out 14 hits, and scored runs in all four of their innings. Batters got to Tumwater starter Elijah Hill early, tagging the 6-foot-3 sophomore for six runs on eight hits.
Hill exited after little more than one inning following Tanner Gueller’s three-run, no-doubt-about-it home run to left field, which traveled an estimated 380 feet and gave W.F. West a 6-0 lead.
Hill did get out of a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the first, preventing further damage when he struck out the seventh, eighth and ninth hitters.
Gueller, the Bearcats’ No. 3 hitter, went 2-for-4 – both hits for extra-bases – with five RBI. His sacrifice fly in the third inning pushed the lead to 9-0.
The Bearcats’ top three hitters – Dugan Shirer, Toby Johnson and Gueller – had four plate appearances through four innings and were a combined 9-for-12 with seven RBI.
W.F. West continued its rich tradition in the state playoffs, winning its second state title in four seasons – the first under coach Tommy Elder – in what was considered a rebuilding year for the Bearcats after the retirement of longtime coach Tom Zuber.
W.F. West has now won state trophies in four of the past five seasons, even after the loss of multiple starters to graduation – including 2012 league MVP Mitch Gueller. The Bearcats captured the 2A EvCo regular-season title under first-year coach Elder, the District IV title and their first state crown since 2010.
“We definitely believed in ourselves,” said Tanner Gueller, a junior. “Our coaches said the first day (of practice) that we would win state,” Steen said, “and we didn’t look back.”
After the T-Birds’ 3-2 semifinal win Saturday, confidence was high and they were facing a familiar opponent in the title game.
Of Tumwater’s eight losses, five came to W.F. West – 1-0, 8-0, and 7-4 during the regular season, 5-1 in the District IV title game and Sunday’s state title game.
On April 17, Tumwater had a 7-6 overall record, was fourth in the 2A EvCo standings, and on a three-game losing skid. The T-Birds won 11 of the next 13 to reach their first Final Four.
“Everyone buckled down and got the job done,” Terrell said.
Said Tumwater coach Jamie Weeks: “They’ll start remembering those good things as the days go on.”
Tenino takes third: The Tenino Beavers earned their second state trophy in the last three seasons with a 6-5 victory in eight innings over Cascade of Leavenworth in the Class 1A third/fourth-place game at Richland High School. The Beavers were second in 2011.
Tenino led off the eighth with back-to-back doubles by Zeb Chamberlain and Kellen Miller. It was Miller’s RBI double that scored Chamberlain for what stood up as the winner.
Chamberlain finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. Ben Peterson picked up the win in relief, pitching 42/3 scoreless innings, giving up three hits.
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473