In the battle for second, striking first paid off big time.
Benefitting from some timely hitting, which was aided by a handful of errors, the White River baseball team strolled into Lacey, established a large lead early before holding on to defeat River Ridge, 7-5, in a key 2A South Puget Sound League clash on Tuesday.
The Hornets (9-6, 7-2 2A SPSL) built a 7-0 cushion before the Hawks’ offense finally arrived late in the contest, and despite an impressive five-run fifth inning for River Ridge, White River was able to turn away the rally and in the process take sole possession of second place in the 2A SPSL.
“We’re trying to set up a playoff atmosphere around here,” Hawks coach Chad Arko said. “The first three innings, we were flat. We gave them four out of their first six runs. I was pleased with how the team battled, but that was just too big of a deficit for us to come back from.”
River Ridge (6-7, 6-3) won’t have much time to dwell on the defeat as the squad will be on the road for today’s 4 p.m. rematch in Buckley.
“We’re still learning, but this will be a great opportunity to see how much we’ve grown,” Arko said. “The last time we lost a league game was to Fife, 4-0, and we came out the next time we faced them and got 10-runned. So tomorrow’s game will tell us a lot about where we are.”
White River scored four runs in the second inning and two in the third to grab a 6-0 advantage before River Ridge had even registered its first hit.
The Hornets made it a 7-0 game after Hawks pitcher Roman Gallegos, who replaced starter Thayer Murphy at the start of the fifth inning, threw a two-out, four-pitch walk with the bases loaded.
Seung Kim collected River Ridge’s first hit of the game in the fourth, sending a ball back up the middle into shallow center field.
It was almost a carbon copy hit the next inning for Kim, right back through the middle of the infield. The major difference the second time around was the Hawks finally had some base runners, with Brayden Anderson and Matt Morgan both scoring, which cut the deficit to 7-5.
Prior to Kim’s two-run hit, River Ridge got an RBI single from Brendan Black for its first run and a two-run single from Morgan.
Ben Maratita, who hit a sharp double to left field in the fifth, smacked his second double of the game with one out in the sixth. The Hawks were unable to duplicate their fifth inning success, however, as White River reliever Mason Harris retired the game’s final five batters to snuff out the comeback.
“Our goal this season was to make the playoffs,” Arko said. “It’s been four years since we’ve done that. We win tomorrow, and we are right back in a tie for second place.”
Timberline 1, Bellarmine 0: Blazers goalkeeper Jaelen Bush came through in a big road game with a four-save shutout, his third of the season, to help get what coach Mark Tate call a “huge win” for the Timberline program.
“We hardly made any mistakes,” Tate said.
Timberline’s has only lost one road game all season (at Stadium, 3-1, on April 16), and against the Lions, Timberline adjusted to Bellarmine’s smaller, narrower field in the second half, Tate said.
"We stayed very organized and very disciplined," he said.
Nestor Perez rebounded Jesus Ramos' missed shot for the game's lone goal.