Eagles fall hard out of 2A baseball playoffs

"The Klahowya Secondary School baseball team had seen some good teams during its 2000 Olympic League season. The Eagles had seen Class 4A and 3A teams, teams that were bound for the postseason at several different levels.But they had never, ever seen a team like the Columbia Bruins.That team plays a 2A schedule all season, but they could compete with anybody in the Olympic League - North Kitsap, Port Angeles, any of them, said Klahowya coach Russ Shiplet. They're a fine hitting team.Shiplet had just watched, impressed and helpless, as the Bruins (20-1) had hammered his ace pitcher, Jeff Berend, for 16 hits in four innings en route to a 13-1 2A regional playoff Saturday at W.F. West High School. The game was halted after five innings because the regionals employ a 10-run mercy rule.In those five innings, Shiplet could've replaced every player, run every play, dug up every pickoff and gimmick in the ol' bag of tricks. But there was nothing he could've done to put out the fire in the Bruins' bats.I told Jeff there wasn't anything he was doing wrong. He pitched a good ballgame, Shiplet said. Those guys just hit the heck out of the ball.First baseman Derek Verley starred in the show of offensive fireworks, going 4 for 4 with a home run (off reliever Josh Rost in the fifth), two doubles (both off Berend), four runs scored and seven RBIs.The Bears added three more doubles to the barrage, and started off the fourth inning with seven consecutive base hits, including Josh Billette's 2RBI two-bagger.When your best pitcher is getting hit like that, Shiplet said, shaking his head in wonder, what are you going to do?For the underclassmen on the Klahowya roster, it was a learning experience par excellence. The No. 1-ranked Bruins put on a show in the picturesque setting - the kind of team and venue one usually gets to see only in the postseason.But for Shiplet's six seniors, Berend included, the manner of the loss, their 11th against six wins this spring, was a hard pill to swallow.I feel bad for them, Shiplet shrugged. But they have to remember that our goal this season was to get here, and we accomplished that. Now the goal has to be to get one step closer - take that next step.When you see teams like this, that obviously play together more than 20 games a season, it shows you what you need to do, added Shiplet, who said a summer program for Klahowya's players is in the works, and will help close the gap between the Eagles and teams like the White Salmon-based Bruins.It was a day for the long ball, apparently. Klahowya, which had just four hits - two each against Columbia right-handers David Janney and Aaron Hogberg - but three of them were for extra bases. Senior catcher Zack Seals took Janney over the center field wall, some 375 feet yonder, to lead off the second, and Kyle Skelly and Matt Machinski hit back-to-back doubles off Hogberg in the fourth.But even that good stuff wasn't good enough. Seals' circuit came between three-run Columbia rallies, and the back-to-back doubles didn't yield a run - Skelly had to wait to see if left fielder Phillip Coate could handle Machinski's blast to the shallow (285 feet) porch, and could move up only 90 feet when the ball bounced off the wall.Verley had a field day against the Eagles from the beginning. His bases-loaded double gave the Bruins a quick 3-0 lead before an out was recorded in the first inning, and he drove in another run with a double in the second.The Eagles looked tentative in the batter's box - seven of the eight Klahowya batters who struck out against Janney and Hogberg did so looking, no swinging.We had a good year, Shiplet said. We won some big games in our league. Now we've got to build on that and get better."

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