By Meg Wochnick
LACEY – While disappointed his no-hitter was broken up with one out in the seventh inning of a tight ball game, Timberline’s Matt Mercer still gave credit where it was do. Not only did he give credit to the hitter – “That was a good hit,” Mercer said of Wilson first baseman and clean-up hitter John Halseth’s double to left-center field -- but also gave a tip of his cap to outfielders Blake Nystrom and a diving Chris Roy for their efforts.
“I love that from teammates,” Mercer said, “… when they give maximum effort.”
Sure, Mercer’s near no-no might’ve been over, but he wasn’t worked up over it. He simply continued to dominate Wilson’s hitters in the seventh like he had all game, and struck out Brady O’Keefe and Noah Hill swinging to end the game with a one-hit shutout in Timberline’s 2-0 victory over the Rams during Monday’s 3A Narrows League baseball showdown.
Mercer finished with a season-high 15 strikeouts, as the Blazers (13-0 overall, 6-0 league) remains atop the 3A Narrows League standings ahead of second-place North Thurston (6-1 league) and third-place Wilson (4-2). Timberline and North Thurston face off next Monday at North Thurston for the teams’ first meeting of the season.
Mercer, throwing 67 of his 99 pitches for strikes, fanned at least two Wilson batters in all but one inning (fourth), including striking out the side in the fifth and sixth innings.
“As I settled down after the first couple of innings, I felt I had more control of my pitches,” Mercer said. “I was getting a lot of first pitch strikes … and getting that inside corner down.”
Leading 1-0 through five, the home half of the sixth was when the Blazers got Mercer an insurance run when Tony Ortiz’s RBI single to left-center scored Andrew Blaisdell, running for Mercer, who singled two batters earlier.
The two runs on five hits – all singles – are vastly different from the 8.2 runs per game the Blazers averaged through their first 12 games, but shutting out the Rams is the team’s seventh shutout of the year.
O’Keefe, Wilson’s starter, pitched well enough to keep the Rams in it, but a high pitch count (57 pitches through two innings) led to an exit after 4 2/3. Wilson coach Doug Rupe praised O’Keefe, who also earned the win on the mound in Wilson’s 4-3 win over North Thurston on April 1, nothing that if O’Keefe continues to pitch like he did Monday, “we’re going to be in almost every game,” Rupe said.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of teams in our league or in the area that would put up a lot of runs against that type of performance,” he added.