CENTRALIA — Matt Mercer’s fantastic start was only trumped by his finish.
The Timberline High School junior pitcher faced the minimum number of batters through the first three innings. He followed that by retiring the final eight batters he faced before stepping off the mound, his day done after six innings of work.
Tony Ortiz and Tyler Gartner took over from there, combining to pitch a scoreless seventh with both posting a strikeout.
No, the Blazers didn’t give Bainbridge a lot of scoring opportunities. Turns out, the Spartans didn’t need many.
Brett Green’s two-run double in the fourth was all Bainbridge needed to put away Timberline as the Spartans claimed a 2-1 victory in the opening round of the Class 3A regional baseball tournament Saturday at Ed Wheeler Field.
The defeat ends the Blazers’ season at 23-3.
“This was just a fun season. Great group to coach,” Timberline coach Matt Acker said. “Our goal was to win state, but that’s everyone’s goal. We really can’t control the results. I think when they look back, they’ll see they learned a lot about being a team, a lot about themselves and a lot about their friendships. This team has nothing to hang their heads about.”
Coincidentally, all three of the Blazers’ losses this season were by 2-1 scores. They also lost twice to North Thurston by the same result.
“That’s just baseball,” said Acker, who guided the Blazers to second place in the 3A Narrows League. “When you get to this stage of the season, everyone has great pitching; runs are difficult to get.”
Timberline finished with six hits — all singles. Three of the hits failed to leave the infield, two coming on bunts and the third on Blake Nystrom’s grounder to second that the senior was able to leg out.
Nystrom’s hit scored Chris Roy, cutting the Blazers’ deficit to 2-1 in the fourth inning.
It marked the lone hit Timberline would get with runners in scoring position as the Blazers went 1-for-7 on the day.
“We had our chances,” Acker said. “No excuses.”
In his six innings, Mercer gave up four hits while striking out seven with no walks.
He surrendered a first-inning hit to Green, the Spartans’ No. 3 hitter and starting pitcher, but picked him off first to end the inning.
Mercer notched four strikeouts through the first three innings.
Bainbridge (21-3) opened the fourth with back-to-back singles before Green’s blast to the right-field corner drove in both runners to give the Spartans a 2-0 lead.
Green attempted to stretch his double into a triple but was gunned down at third.
It was one of the few miscues by the Bainbridge senior, who also picked up the win, giving up four hits and striking out six in six innings.
After Green’s double, Mercer quickly rediscovered his groove, retiring the next eight batters he faced.
Ortiz took over for the Blazers to start the seventh, giving up a single, which was sandwiched between a pair of outs. Gartner stepped in to get the final out, striking out Trent Schulte to keep the deficit at one run for Timberline.
With two outs in the seventh, the Blazers got the tying run on first after Taylor Adams’ line drive to left field. But the game ended on Roy’s flyout.
Roy led off the fourth with a single, the Blazers’ first hit of the game. Brennon Kaleiwahea followed with a single of his own.
Timberline also opened the fifth with consecutive hits — getting back-to-back bunt singles from Andrew Blaisdell and Gartner.
The Spartans also posted an upset over Timberline in the 2009 state semifinals, defeating the top-ranked Blazers, 4-2, at Safeco Field.
Bainbridge, which fell to O’Dea, 10-3, in the state final five years ago, lost Saturday’s regional final to Shorewood, 1-0.
Shorewood moves on to the state semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday at Pasco’s Gesa Stadium, where it will meet Bonney Lake, a 7-0 winner over Shelton in the regional final in Mount Vernon.