Character check works for Blue Devils

Wa-Hi tops Davis and Wenatchee for the No. 2 seed to sub-regionals next week.


WALLA WALLA - Wa-Hi earned the right to continue its baseball season in Columbia Basin Big Nine 4A district playoff action here Saturday.

The Blue Devils faced Davis in a loser-out battle to open their day. Davis mounted a seventh-inning threat as the Pirates had the tying and go-ahead runs on base before the Blue Devils quelled the rally and hung on for a 5-4 win.

That win earned Wa-Hi a ticket to Tuesday's sub-regional tournament.

Wa-Hi came back in the nightcap to down Moses Lake, a 13-5 loser to Richland in Saturday morning's district title match. The 11-8 win over the Chiefs earned Wa-Hi the CBBN 4A No. 2 seed to sub-regional.

"We've had some character checks this year," Wa-Hi coach Keith Gradwohl said. "At Wenatchee, we dropped the first game and came back to win the league crown all by ourselves. Today, in game one (Davis) was another character check. We did OK.

"We met our goals today," Gradwohl continued. "We made it into the sub-regionals, and we got everybody to play (in the Moses Lake game). And other than Drew (Christina, Wa-Hi's first game pitcher), we kept our pitching by keeping low pitch counts in game two. We're right where we need to be. I like our chances."

Wa-Hi, 17-6 on the year, travels to Ferris High School in Spokane for a 1 p.m. loser-out battle with Gonzaga Prep (15-8 on the year) on Tuesday. If the Blue Devils survive, they play Ferris (18-2) at 4 p.m., and win or lose against the Saxons, continue their drive for a regional berth Saturday.

Wa-Hi 5, Davis 4

Davis got an RBI double from Lavonte Allen in the first inning to grab a 1-0 lead in the loser-out battle.

Wa-Hi would answer in the home second.

With one out, Michael Pontarolo legged out a slow-roller between the pitcher and first baseman for an infield hit.

"We don't give up early," Pontarolo said. "We just try to play seven innings hard. It (the infield roller) wasn't my best hit, but I just ran hard and got on base."

Pontarolo stole second, reached third on a wild pitch, and Taylor Lemke singled him home for a 1-1 tie after two.

A Pontarolo single lead off the Blue Devil fourth, and with two outs, Conner Holbrook looped a liner toward Pirate first baseman Allen, who dropped the ball and the flood gates opened.

"The pitcher (Trenton Dupree) was throwing good stuff and I was way out in front of a change up and it (the ball) came off the end," Holbrook said. "I just got lucky."

Moe Handcox followed with a run-scoring single, and Jake Jimenez capped the inning with a two-run double for a 4-1 Blue Devil lead.

The Pirates answered in the fifth as they got a walk, one of five Wa-Hi ace Drew Christina would give up on the day, an RBI double from Jackson Marquis, and a Marcus McClurkin single to drive Marquis home. Davis was back within 4-3 after five.

"My arm felt good, and I was trying to use my stuff," Drew Christina said. "I thought I made some really good pitches. I was kind of wowed as they just smacked them around."

Wa-Hi tacked on what proved to be a huge insurance run in the home sixth.

Lemke reached on a Pirate error. Brett Christina put down a sacrifice bunt to move Josh Eggers, who ran for Lemke, to second.

Holbrook ripped a double to right center and Eggers scored to give the Blue Devils a 5-3 lead heading to the seventh.

"I knew I had to get something to the right side because we had a runner at second," Holbrook said of his clutch at bat. "I had some bad swings to start the at bat and got behind. I was kind of fighting and he (Dupree) made a mistake and left a pitch up and I went the opposite way with it."

Drew Christina walked the first two Davis hitters to open the seventh.

"Drew has to make us nervous by walking those two leadoff guys," Gradwohl said. "We had to win, so we were going to go with our horse (Drew Christina)."

Christina got Marquis to hit a ground ball, Wa-Hi forced the runner (Nathan Villegas) at second but threw away the attempt at a double play, and Jason Klingele, who walked to lead off the inning, scored to make it 5-4.

Christina got a strike out but walked Allen to put the go-ahead run on base.

"He (Christina) was struggling with location," Holbrook, Wa-Hi's catcher, said. "We got in a tough situation (in the seventh), but I figured he would just keep doing what he does and get out of it. He ended up locating a few good curve balls."

"I was hoping that it was going to end soon," Blue Devil second baseman Pontarolo said. "Give me a ground ball and get an out."

Christina, with two on and two out, found enough to get his sixth strikeout of the game to end the seventh and send the Blue Devils on to the sub-regional.

"I don't know what was going on there late in the game," Drew Christina said. "After those first couple of walks, I'm thinking I have to buckle down. And the last pitch, I felt really good letting it go and it hit my spot perfectly."

wa-hi 11, moses lake 8

In the seeding game, both teams played everybody and combined to collect 26 hits.

Handcox lead off the Wa-Hi first with a double, his first of four hits as he finished a home run short of the cycle. Wa-Hi would go on to score three runs and take a 3-0 lead to the second.

Lemke, Tyler Stevenson and Jacob Thomason all ripped run-scoring doubles in a four-run Blue Devil fourth as Wa-Hi lengthened the lead to 9-2.

The Chiefs batted around, pounded out six hits and scored six times in their fifth to cut the Wa-Hi lead to 9-8.

Handcox tripled to lead off the Wa-Hi fifth. Kevin Toon singled Handcox home, and Eggers picked up Toon with a single as Wa-Hi increased the lead to 11-8 after five.

Matt Watson came on in relief to pitch two scoreless innings to close out the win and give the Blue Devils the No. 2 seed and a Tuesday date with Gonzaga Prep.

Wa-Hi 5, Davis 4

Davis 100 020 1 - 4 4 2

Wa-Hi 010 301 x - 5 8 3

Dupree and White-Elk; D. Christina and Holbrook.

Hits - Davis: McClurkin 2, Allen, Marquis: Wa-Hi: Jimenez 2, Pontarolo 2, Lemke, Watson, Handcox, Holbrook.

Wa-Hi 11, Moses Lake 8

Moses Lake 002 060 0 - 8 12 5

Wa-Hi 311 420 x - 11 14 1

Zavala, Sage (3), Samuels (5), Lopez (5) and Noyola; Campeau, Parnicky (4), Watson (5) and Holbrook, Lemke (4).

Hits - ML: Hernandez 2, Sage, Steffler, Redal, Juarez 2, C. Alverado, Samuels, Raymond, Dodds, Noyola; Wa-Hi: Handcox 4, Lemke 2, Pontarolo, Toon 2, Eggers 2, Stevenson, Thomason, Jimenez.


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