It’s easy to understand why Tumwater High School baseball coach Jamie Weeks feels optimistic about his team as it begins the Class 2A District IV tournament Tuesday at home against Capital.
For the first time since 1996, the Thunderbirds are league champions and enter the postseason as a No. 1 seed, hosting the Cougars (6-14) at 4 p.m.
“The kids are in a good flow,” Weeks said. “They’re feeling good and confident. ... We’re getting hot at the right time.”
By clinching the league title on April 30, the T-Birds did what no other Thurston County team has done since the 2A Evergreen Conference was formed in 2006: win a league title. Before that, a span of seven consecutive years, the league champion came from Lewis County — either Centralia or W.F. West — until the T-Birds did it this season with a 16-2 record in league play.
“We’ve earned a lot of respect this year in our league,” said Weeks, whose only losses in the 2A EvCo were to runner-up Centralia.
But teams from Thurston County did fine when it came to the district tournament. Three teams — Tumwater (2007), River Ridge (’08, ’09, ’10) and North Thurston (’12) — all won District IV titles without winning their league crowns.
Tumwater’s team this season strikes comparisons to the 1996 team, said Weeks, who was an assistant coach with the T-Birds 18 seasons ago: big arms, strong bats, and solid defense led by Lance Gustafson and Jon Burbidge, who were also All-State football players.
The 17 overall victories rank in the top three in program history, and already is one win better from last year’s team that advanced to the 2A state title game, where it faced conference-rival W.F. West.
Four players — Luke Hare, Anthony Correia, Justin Graham and Riley Owens — are hitting better than .400, and Hare (0.90 ERA) and Garrett Terrell (1.40) are both 6-0 on the mound. They face a Capital team that has won five of its past 10 games to edge River Ridge for the final playoff spot.
Other first-round games of the double-elimination district tournament are: Black Hills at Hockinson, W.F. West at Mark Morris, and R.A. Long at Centralia. All three games are at 4:30 p.m.
MORE BASEBALL TUESDAY
Three other baseball district tournaments start Tuesday.
For 3A Narrows League regular-season champion North Thurston (15-5), the Rams must face Enumclaw in a loser-out game to advance to the double-elimination portion of the 3A West Central/Southwest bidistrict tournament, as does Shelton (9-13) against Kennedy Catholic.
“We’ll come out, and we’ll be ready on Tuesday,” North Thurston coach Lance Baker said after the Rams’ 8-1 loss to Timberline in the 3A Narrows League title game on Friday.
The win for the Blazers (19-2) earned a first-round bye. They will play the winner of Prairie-Auburn Mountainview in a winner-to-state quarterfinal game Wednesday.
In Class 4A, Olympia (9-12) battles Graham-Kapowsin, and in 1A, Rochester and Tenino are the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds, respectively, to start Tuesday’s 1A District IV tournament.
RAMS WRESTLER GOES D-I
North Thurston wrestler Jake Grantham, who won the Class 3A state title in the 220-pound weight class in February, signed a letter of intent to wrestle at Division I Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz.
Grantham became the Rams’ first state champion since Kyle Keeney won the heavyweight title at the Mat Classic in 2001. Grantham’s reversal with 10 seconds to go sealed the victory over Mount Spokane’s Tom Harvey, 9-7, capping off his career as a state champion and a three-time placer at state.
Grantham also finished fourth at state in Class 2A as a sophomore and sixth place in Class 3A his junior year. Both were in the 195-pound weight class.
High school playoffs
Baseball: 4A West Central/SW bidistrict tournament (first round)
• Game 1: Olympia (9-12) vs. Graham-Kapowsin (11-9), 4 p.m., Russell Road Park, Kent (loser out)
Baseball: 3A West Central/SW bidistrict tournament (first round)
• Game 3: Kennedy Catholic (12-5) vs. Shelton (9-13), 4 p.m., Heidelberg Park, Tacoma (loser out)
• Game 4: North Thurston (15-5) vs. Enumclaw (12-9), 7 p.m., Heidelberg Park (loser out)
Baseball: 2A District IV tournament (first-round)
• Game 1: R.A. Long (11-8) at Centralia (15-5), 4:30 p.m.
• Game 2: Black Hills (8-12) at Hockinson (13-4), 4:30 p.m.
• Game 3: W.F. West (13-6) at Mark Morris (14-5), 4:30 p.m.
• Game 4: Capital (6-14) at Tumwater (17-3), 4 p.m.
Baseball: 1A District IV tournament (first round; semifinal and consolation games follow at 3 p.m.)
• Game 1: La Center (9-7) at Rochester (15-5), noon (loser to Tenino)
• Game 2: Elma (14-6) vs. Toledo-Winlock (11-6), noon, Tenino (winner to Rochester)
• Game 3: Tenino (15-5) at Castle Rock (11-6), noon, Field 2
• Game 4: Hoquiam (13-6) vs. Woodland (19-1), noon, Castle Rock, Field 1
Boys soccer: 2A District IV tournament
Semifinals (winners to state)
• Capital vs. Hockinson, 7 p.m., Ingersoll Stadium, Olympia
Consolation game (loser out)
• Black Hills vs. Centralia, 7 p.m., Tiger Stadium, Centralia
Girls tennis: 2A EvCo subdistrict girls tennis tournament, first day, at Capital City Tennis and Athletic Center (all day)
Girls golf: 4A and 3A Narrows League championships, first round, at Lake Spanaway Golf Course, 8 a.m.
Baseball: 3A West Central/SW bidistrict tournament (winner to state)
• Timberline (19-2) vs. Tuesday’s Prairie/Auburn Mountainview winner, 4 p.m., Heidelberg Park
Baseball: 2A District IV tournament
Consolation games (loser out)
• Game 5: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 4 p.m., Centralia
• Game 6: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 6 p.m., Centralia
Semifinals (winner to state)
• Game 7: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 4 p.m., W.F. West
• Game 8: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 6 p.m., W.F. West
Girls tennis: 2A EvCo subdistrict tournament, second day, at Capital City Tennis and Athletic Center (all-day)
Boys/girls golf: 4A and 3A Narrows League championships, second round, at Lake Spanaway Golf Course, 8 a.m.
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com @MegWochnick theolympian.com/southsoundsports