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Olympic Junior Legion team earns third at state
SPOKANE — After delivering a come-from-behind victory to catapult into contention for a state title, the Olympic Tigers settled for a third-place finish.
The Junior Legion baseball team was competing in the 16-team Junior AA American Legion State Tournament at University High School in Spokane, where it reeled off a 4-2 record to bring home a share of the bronze.
“Fun is an understatement,” said coach Nate Andrews, the head baseball coach and athletic director at Olympic High School. “It was a great experience.”
The Tigers (26-12), who are comprised of OHS baseball players, were eliminated with a 9-3 loss Wednesday to Chehalis, a team they beat 5-2 earlier that day. Had Olympic won again, it would have advanced to the championship game.
Joe Stevick carried the Tigers through the bracket, pitching 16 innings over three starts — all wins — while allowing just two runs. He broke the Junior Legion record for wins in a summer with 12, topping the previous high of nine. Stevick picked up his 10th win — and the record — against Newport of Bellevue in a 4-1 win Saturday, striking out nine batters.
“He did a great job keeping them at bay,” Andrews said.
The most exciting game of the tournament, at least for the Tigers, was Tuesday against Burlington. Trailing 5-1 entering the bottom of the seventh inning, Olympic plated five runs to prevail 6-5.
The rally started with consecutive singles from Blake Johnson, Chris Campbell and Zach Bird, respectively, to load the bases with no outs. A sacrifice fly scored Johnson to make it 5-2 before Chris Groat drew a walk to load the bases again, this time with one out. A wild pitch scored Campbell, setting up a Rob Elliott pinch-hit, bases-clearing two-run triple to tie the game 5-5.
Then with two outs, Dillon Welch was able to beat out an infield chopper to score Elliott from third, the winning run.
Andrews said that rally, coupled with positive reviews from umpires and fans about the sportsmanship and conduct of the Tigers, made the trip to Spokane both memorable and successful.
“We are really proud of the kids,” Andrews said. “This is a close-knit group and hopefully we can carry over the team chemistry into next year.”
Campbell struck out eight in an 8-6 win Monday over University. The Tigers’ other loss came by a 14-4 count in their second game of the tournament Sunday against Chehalis, which faced Kennewick for the state title yesterday. Results from that game were unavailable at press time.
Olympic received solid performances top to bottom throughout the tournament, with key reserves such as Elliott and Welch coming through in the clutch. Seeing each member of the roster step up, Andrews said, was a tribute to how hard the players worked all season.
“Every single player on the team contributed to our success,” Andrews said. “It was really, really neat ... It was just amazing to see the team come together.”
A large group of parents made the trip across the state to watch the five-day tournament, something Andrews said helped boost the team on the field.
“Our parents were very supportive and deserve a lot of credit,” he said.
Chehalis 9, Olympic 3
Chehalis 014 020 2—9 9 2
Olympic 000 003 0—3 7 1
Mitch Gueller and Kahn. Chris Campbell, Danny Sullivan (5), Rob Elliott (7) and Roberts, Zach Bird (5). W—Gueller. L—Campbell (6-3).
Leading hitters—Che: Hanson 3-3 2RBI, Wilson 2-3 (RBI), Lininger 2-3 (3RBI). Oly: Campbell 2-4, Bird 2-3 (2b), Davis 1-3 (2RBI).