CASTLE ROCK — As it went on, as Jacob Rogers frustrated Toutle Lake’s hitters over and over, as Ilwaco took a late lead with upset on its mind, it didn’t matter that the Toutle Lake baseball team was the top seed in the state, with the larger crowd, and closer to home.
Ilwaco had the momentum, and the Ducks were getting more tense with every pitch. Until finally, in extra innings, TL skipper Jerry Johnson had seen enough.
“We’ve had a lot of success all season long, and when they suddenly find themselves 0-for-a-few, they start to press a little bit,” he said. “You have to relax and enjoy baseball, the game you’ve been playing since you were 5 years old. Just have fun, because pressing is not the way to find success.
“That last at-bat that Fisher (Wassell) had, I just made a point to say ‘You’ve got to breathe, and relax, and have fun.’ I think he did.”
Wassell worked a deep count and barreled a double to straightaway center field, ending Rogers’ outing. The next batter, Dylan Fraidenburg, cranked a ball the other way to the wall, and despite getting a late jump, pinch runner Connor Holverson dove in safely to give the Ducks a walk-off 4-3 win and a much needed opportunity to breathe.
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— Josh Kirshenbaum (@J_Kirshenbaum) May 21, 2022
Final (8): Dylan Fraidenberg wanted to play again today. Double to right, and Connor Holverson gets in safely to end it.
4-3 Toutle Lake in eight innings. They'll play the winner of Forks and Liberty Bell later. Ilwaco's season comes to an end pic.twitter.com/T4oSj3GS4f
The win gave Toutle Lake the chance to play later Saturday afternoon, against Forks, with a spot in the 2B State semifinals in Ridgefield next week on the line.
Ilwaco’s season, meanwhile, comes to a stirring end.
“We believed it all the time,” Ilwaco coach Bret Hopkins said. “We had a plan coming in this week, and we executed it. We did what we needed to do. It was a great game, we were just on the wrong end of it.”
For multiple moments late, though, that opposite result looked just as likely, if not more.
Johnson and his assistant coaches made the decision to save C2BL MVP Jackson Cox for the afternoon game, and instead sent out sophomore Zach Swanson to start. The righty spotted Ilwaco a lead right out of the gate with a leadoff walk, a wild pitch, a ground out, and a dropped third strike with two outs, but soon settled in for one of his best outings of the season.
“He got in a rhythm, got going smoothly, and that helped him throw more strikes,” catcher Connor Cox said.
But opposite the Oregon State commit, Rogers — who was coming off of two rough outings in the district tournament — did just as much for the Fishermen to keep the TL bats befuddled. He only racked up four strikeouts to Swanson’s 14, but let the Ducks get under offspeed pitches for a grocery store’s worth of cans of corn all morning long.
“We’re a different team when he’s doing his thing out there,” Hopkins said. “When he has his secondaries, his slider and changeup working, he’s almost unhittable. He really does a good job, he throws a lot of strikes. He doesn’t walk guys. He’s one of those guys you can throw up there and let him go.”
With Toutle Lake clinging to a 2-1 lead going into the sixth, Ilwaco finally got in the hit column courtesy of a Derrick Cutting single. After a wild pitch got Cutting to second base, Swanson responded with two easy outs, but the Ducks’ coaches chose to put Ilwaco cleanup hitter Boston Caron on intentionally to fill the open base.
That brought Cannon Johnson up, and Ilwaco’s third baseman didn’t wait around to make the Ducks pay, blasting a first-pitch fastball the other way for a two-RBI double.
Suddenly, it was still a one-run game but in the direction of — and just six outs away from — a massive upset.
“I thought Zach threw great,” Johnson said. “Ultimately offensively, we’ve got to get more across the board so we can relax and enjoy ourselves.”
Jackson Cox replied right away with a double the other way, and two outs later, Kyler Shellenbarger went to the same place to tie things up a 3-3.
The elder Cox brother finished 2-for-4 with a pair of stolen bases as the Ducks’ designated hitter. Cutting was the only Fisherman to reach base twice, with a walk and a single, and scored a pair of runs.
Both starters went deep, with pitch count ending each of their outings. Swanson got two outs into the top of the seventh before Ethan Hopkins singled up the middle to extend the frame. Connor Cox went from catching to pitching, got an easy third out, and went on to retire the side in order in the top of the eighth.
Rogers went even longer, going into the eighth on 100 pitches. After getting Jackson Cox to fly out, Wassell worked a longer at-bat to get Rogers over the final threshold before hitting his double.
Ilwaco turned to Kaeman Sawa to face Fraidenburg, and after the sophomore Duck took a first-pitch strike and a pair of balls, he barreled one up to end it.
“I watched the first pitch, and if the second pitch was good, I was gonna unload on it,” Fraidenburg said.
Ilwaco ends its season with a 15-11 record. The Fishermen are set to return all of their players next season, with just Kaeden Lyster and Alex Hillard as juniors this spring.
Cox tosses no-no, Ducks roll Spartans
Toutle Lake defeated Forks 4-0 in the afternoon at Castle Rock to keep its State title dreams alive.
Jackson Cox picked up the win for the Ducks, striking out 15 batters en route to another no-hitter.
For a full game report of Toutle Lake’s win over Forks look online at TDN.com or in Tuesday’s print edition of The Daily News.
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