Sports

State title hopes out of Spartans’ reach

Blake Jensen chases down a fly ball during recent hardball action. The Spartans fell in the first round of tournament play Saturday, thanks to a bad case of the jitters and some untimely defensive errors and walks by pitchers. - JESSE BEALS/Staff Photo
Blake Jensen chases down a fly ball during recent hardball action. The Spartans fell in the first round of tournament play Saturday, thanks to a bad case of the jitters and some untimely defensive errors and walks by pitchers.
— image credit: JESSE BEALS/Staff Photo

Errors and lapses cost Bainbridge in a 5-3 Saturday loss

to Mark Morris.

BELLEVUE – Bainbridge baseball head coach Jayson Gore tried to keep his players’ heads up.

“It’s not a funeral, guys,” he said as the players gathered their gear after their final meeting. “Nobody died.”

But he – and everyone on the squad – knew the Spartans’ season had passed on, when they might well have saved it.

The Spartans couldn’t get over their nerves and made several critical errors Saturday, losing 5-3 to the Mark Morris Monarchs in the first round of the 3A state baseball tournament at Bannerwood Park.

It’s the fourth time Spartan baseball lost an opening round playoff game, and it finished their season at 15-7.

“I told them the team that wins this game is the team that doesn’t come out and play with two hands around their neck,” he said. “That’s exactly what we did in the first inning.”

Jordan Schager went five innings and struck out six, but walked five and hit two batters.

Monarch starter Mickey Polis wasn’t much better – he beaned five batters and walked one – but he struck out four, gave up just four hits and got Spartan batters to fly out 10 times.

In the first, Schager started off by striking out Polis, but catcher Josh Truan dropped the third strike and then overthrew first baseman Robbie Stevenson, allowing Polis to reach base.

A few pitches later, Schager tried to pick him off, but he threw the ball over Stevenson’s head, and Polis advanced to second.

Third baseman Mac Collette singled, but Schager came back to strike out first baseman Ian Dahl and centerfielder Ryan Lewis. He then walked shortstop Matt Argyropolous and right fielder Austin Brown on four pitches each, with the latter free pass scoring Polis.

Mark Morris added another run in the third when Polis walked and would eventually score on a bloop single by Brown.

They could have scored in the fifth with Lewis on third and Brown appeared to single up the middle, but shortstop Zach Peach made an outstanding reach to nab the ball and fired to first to beat him by a step.

On the play, Brown stepped on Stevenson’s ankle, and the umpires threw him out of the game as they felt he did it with the intention to injure.

“We got fired up,” second baseman Matt Frazee said of the play. “It’s just too bad it didn’t happen earlier. Then we would have been really fired up and it would have been a better game.”

In the sixth, the Monarchs scored three unearned runs off of a single, two more errors, a passed ball and a double by Lewis.

Bainbridge got a run back in the sixth when Frazee was hit by a pitch, then worked his way to third and scored on Brenden Gent’s two-out single.

The rally continued with pinch hitters Taurean Yamada singling to center and Nick Browning getting hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Polis got Michael Heald to fly out to center.

“He wasn’t overpowering anybody,” Gent said of Polis. “But he could change his speeds really well.”

In the seventh, with both teams’ seasons on the line, Polis gave up a leadoff walk to Peach. Mark Morris coach Joe Bair brought in Gage Olsen to pitch, but he promptly walked leftfielder David Lantz and Stevenson to load the bases with no outs.

Enter Tyler Smith.

The senior righthander – nicknamed “T-Smoke” – lived up to his moniker by striking out C.J. Hall and getting Frazee to foul out. Gent then laced a pitch into right field, scoring Peach and Lantz. But Smith came back to strike out centerfielder Blake Jensen for the final out.

The line between teams in the playoffs is so fine, one mistake can cost the ballgame, and the Spartans made several. But they also know they have the talent to be back next year.

“You’ve just got to look in the mirror and say you got beat,” Gore said. “(But) I told them to learn from it. We’ve got a good group of kids, and they’re smart kids.

“Everything that happened is going to motivate them through every single game that they play next year.”

Gent, who received a sportsmanship award after the game, believes the Spartans will be contenders for 2006.

“Fortunately, we have a very young team,” he said. “Next year we’ll be solid and I think we definitely have a good chance to come (back) here.”

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