Friday’s College Baseball: Blazers Clinch Playoff Berth by Sweeping Grays Harbor
Home Field Advantage: Centralia Celebrated Sophomore Night with Come from Behind Win
By Jordan Nailon
The Trailblazers came into the day needing two wins to clinch the final playoff spot out of the NWAC West Conference with four games left to play. They finished the day with a playoff spot in hand and two more games to play just for kicks.
Centralia College defeated the Chokers 9-2 in the first game thanks to a seven run explosion in the sixth inning but then fell behind early to Grays Harbor in Game 2. Trailing by four runs in the second inning it looked like things were going to go south on sophomore night and the Blazers would have to wait another day to try to clinch their spot in the playoffs.
Instead, Centralia went off for eight runs in the sixth inning on their way to an 11-6 win in front of an approving home crowd.
“They went up 4-0 on us and I wasn’t even worried. Our guys had been doing good, playing hard all day. I wasn’t stressed,” said Centralia catcher Gavin O’Donnell. “The combination of our home field, we needed two games, and it being sophomore night, I think it kind of lit a fire under a lot of us. Kind of got us going.”
O’Donnell had two hits in the first game and found his way on base twice more in the second contest. He caught all 14-innings in summer-like heat and still had the wherewithal to talk up his pitchers after the game.
“It’s hot but at the end of the day I’m back there concentrating on my pitchers and what they’re throwing. I’m not really concerned with the heat,” O’Donnell explained.
Blake Marker, Colton Titus and Josh Krause all added a pair of hits for Centralia in the first game while Robbie Wall had a hit and drove in a run.
That offensive production looked like it was on hiatus to start the nightcap but Centralia coach Kawika Emsley-Pai said he brought his team together to have a mid-game back to the basics reminder session.
Whatever he said worked as the Trailblazers worked a tired Chokers pitching staff for all the walks they’d dole out while mixing in a few big hits to break things open.
“We saw real good patience later on in the game. It put guys in scoring position and then our guys were clutch all day long,” said Emsley-Pai. “Hats off to our offense for making adjustments in that second game and hats off to our defense for having our pitchers’ backs all day long.”
Tysen Paul, Wall, and Krause all had two hits for the Blazers in the second game. Krause drove in four runs himself and Wall had two more.
Marco Quintero wound up with the win in the first game after relieving Zach Weinert in the sixth inning. Cole Doughty wound up the pitcher of record for Centralia in the second game after coming on to replace Taite Hensley in the fifth frame.
Emsley-Pai was left feeling pleased with all of the progress that his team has made over the course of the season.
“I said guys we’ve been preaching these kinds of things all season long. We’ve been doing our mental conditioning as much as our physical conditioning and it payed off at the end,” Emsley-Pai said. “They didn’t put pressure on themselves and that’s something we didn’t do early on in the season and to see that come out when it matters most and the season’s on the line I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Centralia features 15 sophomores in their lineup: Festus Gilligan, Robbie Wall, Colton Titus, Cole Doughty, Gavin Manheimer, Taylor Heck, Josh Myer, Ethan Hori, Zach Weinert, Mason Harris, Gavin O’Donnell, Blake Marker, James Hook, Tysen Paul, and Dylan Stakelin.
The Blazers will play Grays Harbor on Saturday at Pioneer Park in Aberdeen in a doubleheader set to begin at 1 p.m.
BLAZERS 9, CHOKERS 2
Grays Harbor 000 002 000 — 2 6 2
Centralia 000 200 70X — 9 12 1
Batteries: Grays Harbor — Kendall Johnson, Kai Meuronen (6), Ben Ray (7) and Peyton Brock; Centralia — Zach Weinert, Marco Quintero (6) and Gavin O’Donnell
BLAZERS 11, CHOKERS 6
Grays Harbor 220 020 0 — 6 5 3
Centralia 010 028 X — 11 10 2
Batteries: Grays Harbor — Michael Fitzpatrick, Michael Jaervis (6), William Gross (6) and Nolan Baugher; Centralia — Dylan Stakelin, Taite Hensley (2), Cole Doughty (5) and Gavin O’Donnell