CHEHALIS — Ten days ago, sitting near a fence along the third-base line at Bearcat Baseball Stadium, the Tumwater Thunderbirds’ emotions were at a low point after not playing their best baseball in a district semifinal loss to W.F. West.
Yet the team vowed to win out and return to the stadium because District IV’s third and final seed to regionals would be decided in Chehalis.
It was gut-check time for the T-Birds, and a refocusing shift, said senior Anthony Correia.
“Step by step — and focus on the big picture,” Correia said. “The one goal in mind was Yakima.”
Since May 14, four loser-out games stood in their way of a return trip to Yakima, where the T-Birds advanced to last year’s 2A state title game.
And once Saturday arrived — playing at the same venue as their last loss — their confidence returned for good, players said.
Then came the victories — two of them, including a 8-1 win over Centralia in an all-2A Evergreen Conference regional final to advance to the state semifinals in Yakima for the second straight year.
Senior Garrett Terrell called reaching regionals “unfinished business No. 4,” but next weekend in Yakima is No. 5.
“It’s a dream come true as a senior,” he said.
They’ll face Lake Washington at 1 p.m. Friday at Yakima’s County Stadium in the second of two semifinal games. The other semifinal features Anacortes and Ellensburg at 10 a.m. Friday.
The winners of the semifinals meet for the state title at 4 p.m. Saturday.
A year ago, the T-Birds made history by advancing to their first state title game before falling, 12-0, to league-rival W.F. West.
The starting pitchers of those two games in Yakima in 2013 — Terrell in the semifinal and Elijah Hill in the title game — pitched complete games Saturday in Chehalis.
“Both hit their spots perfectly,” Correia said. “You couldn’t ask for a better performance, and our defense had their backs the whole way.”
After a 3-1 morning win over White River, getting a three-hit performance from Terrell after he took a no-hitter into the fifth, and seeing an offensive bright spot from sophomore Keenan Milligan (home run, triple), it was Hill’s turn in the regional final.
Facing a Tigers team that took two out of three from the T-Birds during the regular season, Centralia made some early defensive miscues that led to a quick Tumwater advantage.
The T-Birds put up three in the first inning, highlighted by Clayton Boze’s two-RBI single after two infield errors loaded the bases.
In all, Centralia committed six errors, and eight Tumwater batters reach base via walks and hit-by-pitches.
The Thunderbirds had just four hits but made the most of what Centralia gave them.
Tumwater’s lead swelled to 8-0, keyed by Luke Hare’s single as the T-Birds sent eight batters to the plate in the sixth.
It was more than enough run support for Hill, who gave up four hits, struck out five and allowed just the one run in the seventh.
Saturday had a historical factor for the T-Birds, who have set a school record for victories in a season (22), coach Jamie Weeks said, and made back-to-back state semifinal appearances for the first time.
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/southsoundsports @MegWochnick