By Pete Caster - The Chronicle
Thursday, May 21, 2009 1:21 PM PDT
Napavine’s Mike Hellem pitched a stellar five innings as the Tigers took down undefeated Northwest Christian 15-4 to win the District IV 2B Baseball Tournament title at Chehalis’ Bearcat Stadium Wednesday afternoon.
In the sophomore’s five innings of work he struck out four and gave up just four hits. The seven-run cushion his teammates provided him didn’t hurt, either.
“From the first pitch I could tell he was ready to go,” said Napavine coach Bryan Bullock. “His confidence grew when he had a couple of runs of support.”
Napavine (16-7) scored 15 runs on 12 hits, and capitalized off sloppy Navigator fielding all game.
With the bases loaded in the second inning, Justin Smith scored Marty Cozart on a fielder’s choice to second base. Mason Keller then plated Devin Carroll and Smith with a slow grounder to second that was overthrown to first base for one of seven NWC errors on the day.
The Tigers added two more runs in the third frame as Hellem continually left Navigator hitters befuddled with a mixture of off-speed pitches and fastballs.
“Watching the guys get up there and swing the bats like they did gave me the motivation to go out there and throw strikes,” said Hellem, the No. 4 pitcher in the Napavine rotation.
Mathew Waltenburg blasted a triple in the fourth inning to make it 7-0. The junior was 3 for 4 on the day with two doubles, a triple and three RBIs.
“I think our kids did a nice job of making adjustments and being aggressive early in the count,” said Bullock, whose team took advantage of the game’s postponement to prepare for Northwest Christian’s hard-throwing pitcher Nathan Burres.
The Navigators came back in the fifth with a run and had runners on second and third in the sixth, but Tiger reliever Joe Scamman forced two ground-outs and a pop fly to get out of the inning with only two runs surrendered.
In the seventh frame Napavine manufactured three runs with the bases loaded and then, with two outs, Mason Keller drove a fastball over the center fielder’s head to score two runs and make it a 13-3 game.
“I thought it was going to be just a pop out,” said Keller. “But it just kept on going. It was nice to come through with two ribbies with two outs.”
Wednesday’s team effort earned the Tigers a No. 1 seed in the State 2B tournament and a date with Concrete in the first round of play in Mossyrock on Saturday.