TUMWATER - Centralia got the start it hoped for out of pitcher Andrew Pullin, as well as the offense it needed from Mason Musselman.
The result Tuesday was a 13-1 six-inning victory over Black Hills in a Class 2A Evergreen Conference baseball game that gave the second-place Tigers a two-game cushion in the league standings.
“We’re looking better every single game,” said Musselman, the Tigers’ cleanup hitter, who was 4-for-5 with two doubles and four RBI.
Pullin, a junior ambidextrous pitcher, threw a complete-game, four-hitter in his first start of the season. He had missed three games because of a groin injury, and worked in relief in the past few games – including the final two innings in an 8-5 win over Tumwater on April 19.
“You’re not going to score a lot of runs off Pullin,” Black Hills coach Lem Elway said. “You have to generate some offense.”
Pullin was on cruise control for the most of the game. Of the 18 outs, 10 came on ground balls and six were strikeouts. He threw first-pitch strikes to 10 batters, and the one run he gave up in the first inning when Josh Bown scored off Tom Turner’s single up the middle.
“It felt good,” Pullin said. “Trying to throw strikes ... and let the defense make plays.”
“He did a nice job today,” Centralia coach Jon Rooklidge said. “We wanted to get him to start today, and as long as he could stay within a reasonable pitch count ...”
The Tigers (10-3) had plenty of offensive power behind their starter, led by Musselman. As a team, Centralia pounded out 15 hits – at least one in every inning – and had a quick 7-0 lead in the first before Pullin took the mound. The Tigers sent 14 batters to the plate in the first against Black Hills starter Kalvin Hargrave, scoring its seven runs on five hits. The Wolves’ defense helped, too, committing two errors. They finished the game with four.
Musselman has had struggles finding holes this season, but came though in the clutch, driving in runs with three of hits four hits. His single to left-center in a four-run sixth inning was the second of back-to-back hits and runs for the Tigers.
“I haven’t been able to get my foot down all year,” Musselman said. “I’ve been working on it all year.”
Black Hills (6-8) went down in order in the second, third and fourth innings and got its first extra-base hit in the fifth, when Josh Freeto lined a shot to right field. He was stranded at second.
Devin Warner relieved Hargrave in the second, and pitched the final five innings, striking out six.
“I was happy with Devin’s performance,” Elway said.
The Wolves played without starting center fielder and leadoff hitter Kyle Fredericks, who sprained his wrist diving for a ball in Friday’s 12-2 win over River Ridge. Elway said Fredericks could come back next week.
With a week left in the regular season, Black Hills is in a logjam with Aberdeen, North Thurston and Tumwater for the final playoff spots. The top five teams advance to the 2A District IV tournament. Black Hills faces the Tigers today in Centralia, followed by a pair of games against Tumwater.
“We hold our destiny in our own hands,” Elway said.