The Spartans snagged their eighth consecutive win, and defended their claim to the top spot in the league, with a whopping 6-2 victory over the visitors from Seattle Prep Friday, April 28 at Sands Field.
The win kept the Bainbridge High varsity baseball team firmly in the top spot in the Metro, with just one more game to go in the regular season.
It was also Senior Night, and the Spartan squad’s six seniors — Jack Niehaus, Evan Ferguson, Brooks Wallace, Alex Farley, Matthew Spence and Ben McDonald — were recognized.
Friday’s game got off to a slow start, but it was Wallace who set things in motion in the second inning, as he led the Spartan attack with three hits and scored the game’s first run.
The Panthers tied it up in the fourth with a triple and a single.
In the fifth, though, Bainbridge’s Garrett Aichele opened a big lead that the Spartans wouldn’t relinquish with a three-run double as Bainbridge went on to score five runs in the inning.
Liam Hatakenaka started on the mound for the Spartans, striking out six batters and allowing only three hits. Then three separate errors allowed the Panthers to score their second run in the sixth and Jonah Giblin closed things out in the last one and one-third scoreless innings to secure the victory.
It was a crucial game to win, BHS Co-Head Coach Doug McCombs said Friday, if the team was to have the best possible spot going forward.
“That was a big win,” he said, as Queen’s “We are the Champions” blared from the nearby announcer’s station. “This was our big game this week.
“We wanted to secure the Prep game, for sure,” he added.
“Every team is good, but [Rainier] Beach, we think we can handle Beach, but Prep, this was the big game. And if we beat Beach we’ll pretty much be guaranteed a No. 1 seed into the playoffs.”
The team would thus go on as perfectly poised as possible to face off against Rainier Beach the very next day, their last game of the regular season, also at Sands Field.
It was a bit of a Cinderella story for a team that for much of the year didn’t even have a field to play on. Rainy conditions had left the Spartans’ actual home field unplayable, forcing them to shuffle about, cancel or postpone many games in the first weeks of the season, and adding an unforeseen level of complications to practice, which was most often held in the school gym.
“It was difficult,” the coach said. “We have to play it like bad hops on the field, like bad calls at the plate. That was just a bad hop, and you got to play through that. We can use that as an excuse or we can put our noses to the grindstone and get it done, and that’s what we’ve done. We’ve tried to not make that a distraction.”
In this, his first year at the helm, along with Co-head Coach Bill Ackerley, McCombs said he was most impressed with the way the Spartan squad has improved as a cohesive unit.
“Baseball, 90 percent of the time, is an individual sport between pitcher and batter,” he said. “But playing as team is how you’re going to win, and that’s what we’re doing. They trust each other now. They believe in the coaching and they believe in each other.
“We started OK,” he added. “They’re jelling as teammates. As I’ve told them all year, we don’t have any D-1 prospects. We don’t have that stud pitcher that throws 95 [mph]. We don’t have that No. 3 hitter who hits bombs all the time. So we need to win on teamwork and we’ve tried really, really hard to promote that.
“Everything we do is about, ‘What can we do to help out my teammate? How can I get on base? How can I move that runner from first to second?’”
A win Saturday against Beach would perfectly position the Spartans, McCombs said, to take advantage of their best possible road to state.
“Everyone’s tough in the playoffs,” he said. “You see everyone’s best pitching. But the easier the road, the better chance we have.”