The day before Tucker Stroup hit his first career home runs — yes, plural — for Timberline High School, he played in a home run derby fundraiser.
He knocked one over the fence in that contest.
Then, Wednesday afternoon against North Thurston, doubled his production.
“Maybe the swing got into me,” Stroup said.
Stroup, a senior, launched two home runs at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey, lifting the Blazers to an 8-0 win over their crosstown rival.
The first, a three-run bomb, broke a 0-0 tie in the bottom of the fifth inning.
“The first one there were two strikes, so I wasn’t really looking to hit a home run,” Stroup said.
But he cranked the pitch from North Thurston’s Michael Sallee plenty clear of the left-field fence, scoring Chris Larson and Ben Whitt to give the Blazers a three-run lead.
The second home run, in the bottom of the sixth, was part of a five-run inning for Timberline.
“The second one, I think it was a 1-0 count, so I was trying to swing hard — and it happened,” Stroup said.
Stroup hit Shea Thomas’ pitch to the same spot over the left-field fence with the bases loaded.
But the would-be grand slam was changed to a three-run home run after one of Timberline’s base runners passed another before crossing the plate.
Stroup still finished 3 for 3 with a single, the two home runs and six RBIs.
Caleb Beard, a senior, tossed a complete-game shutout for the Blazers, allowing four hits while striking out two batters and walking four in seven innings.
“I felt good going into it,” Beard said. “I was just throwing strikes, getting ground balls and the defense played great.”
North Thurston threatened in the fifth, after James Beatty hit a lead-off double and advanced to third on an errant pitch.
Beatty attempted to tag up on Conrad Carr’s fly ball to left, but was doubled up at the plate on a one-hop throw from Darian Griffin to catcher Jake Julagay.
Beard got Jed Brewer to pop up in foul territory to Julagay to retire the side.
“The defense was huge,” Beard said. “Early in the game, we had the double play in the second inning. When Darian threw that guy out, it was a 0-0 game, so that was huge.
“They were just good all day, made good plays.”
The Rams nearly ended the shutout again in the sixth, when Thomas doubled down the left-field line with two outs, but Griffin again relayed the ball in.
Hunter Kosmider got caught between third and home, then tagged out to end the threat.
Beard retired the Rams in order in the seventh to close the game and pick up the win.
Sallee recorded the loss, pitching five innings and allowing three runs on four hits while striking out one batter and walking four.
North Thurston (2-12, 2-8 Class 3A South Sound Conference) dropped its 10th straight game with the loss.
Timberline (11-4, 8-2) is a half-game in front of Gig Harbor (10-3, 7-2) with four league games remaining.
Timberline coach Mark Rubadue noted that every remaining game is important if the Blazers want to end the season with the inaugural 3A SSC title.
Timberline plays a pair apiece against Central Kitsap (7-6, 5-4) and Peninsula (4-8, 3-7) to finish the regular season.
“We’ve created a good atmosphere of competition, and we’ll see if it keeps going,” Rubadue said.
North Thurston 0 0 0 0 0 0 0_0
Timberline 0 0 0 0 3 5 X_8
WP — Caleb Beard 7 IP, 4 H, 2 K, 4 BB. LP — Michael Sallee 5 IP, 3 R, 4 H, K, 4 BB.
Highlights: NT — James Beatty 1-2, 2B; Shea Thomas 1-3, 2B. T — Tucker Stroup 3-3, 2 HR, 6 RBI; Daniel Furman 2-4, 2B; Darian Griffin 1-3, R, SB.