After surrendering four runs in the bottom of the seventh to lose by a run in a critical league game against Hoquiam on April 21, Montesano head coach Pat Pace had some tough yet honest words for his team.
“We’ve got to learn to win against really good teams,” he said. “That is what it boils down to because we don’t know what that means yet.”
After their performance on Saturday, it’s safe to say the Bulldogs know what it means now.
Junior Riley Timmons belted a three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh to erase a two-run deficit and give the Bulldogs an incredible 8-7 walk-off victory in the 1A District 4 Championship game at Fort Borst Park in Centralia.
“That was a big win for us,” Pace said. “(Walk-off home runs to win the district tile) don’t happen very often.”
The game was a back-and-forth affair over the first few innings, with Montesano taking an early lead with three runs in the first capped by a Timmons RBI single followed by two Hoquiam runs on back-to-back bases loaded walks to senior infielders Graci Bonney-Spradlin and Ella Folkers in the top of the second.
Monte made it 4-2 in the bottom of the second on an RBI single off the bat of shortstop Addi Kersker.
A Hoquiam offense that has hammered opposing pitching this season did just that to Timmons in the top of the fourth. Lexi LaBounty led off the frame with a solo home run and – after Timmons struck out Chloey Deitrick – the Grizzlies put the tying run on base after a walk to Bonney-Spradlin followed by a Folkers single.
Hoquiam pitcher and all-state candidate Carron Blood then took Timmons deep, sending a 2-1 pitch over the left-field fence to give the Grizzlies a 6-4 lead.
“A lot of teams would drop their heads,” Pace said, noting his team had been in this situation before. “It was just like any other game we’ve been playing because we’ve lost leads and had to come from behind to win.”
Monte crept closer with a run in the fourth on a Kersker RBI single to score outfielder Liv Robinson, but Hoquiam answered with a run on a fielder’s choice ground out by Folkers to make it a 7-5 game in the sixth.
Hoquiam threatened again with runners on the corners and one out in the top of the seventh, but Monte third baseman Alexa Stanfield threw out Hoquiam outfielder Ashlinn Cady on a play at the plate to keep the score at 7-5. Timmons then struck out Deitrick to end the threat.
Kersker led off the Monte half of the seventh with a single and – after a Kylee Wisdom pop out – advanced to second on an Ember Jones walk.
Timmons then stepped to the plate and returned the favor, sending Blood’s 1-2 pitch on a line drive over the center field fence to give Montesano a rousing 8-7 walk-off win and the district title.
“Riley has been hitting the ball hard all season, just right to people. But in practice, she’s a home-run machine,” Pace said. “I think Riley would even tell you it’s about time.”
It was the first win for Montesano over Hoquiam this season after falling twice to the league-champion Grizzlies in 1A Evergreen play.
Montesano has won 10-of-12 games since its last league loss to Hoquiam, a moment in the season Pace believes represented a turnaround for his team.
“I think when we lost that second game to Hoquiam, they realized they gave the game away,” he said. “They came to practice and started working harder to make sure that didn’t happen again. That was on their own. We gave them a couple of optional (practice) days and everybody showed up. It wasn’t just one or two kids coming in, they all came in and that shows a lot about their determination.”
The district-title loss is the second in a row for Hoquiam after falling to Eatonville 5-3 in the final at-bat last season.
Timmons earned the win, allowing five runs – three earned – on two hits, seven walks and six strikeouts in 5 1-3 innings pitched.
Grace Gooding allowed two earned runs on three hits with a strikeout in 1 2-3 innings of relief for Montesano.
Blood took the loss, allowing eight runs – seven earned – on 11 hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings of work.
Robinson and Kersker each had three-hit games for Montesano with Timmons driving in four runs for the Bulldogs.
Monte leapfrogs the field and enters the state tournament as the No. 1 seed while Hoquiam enters as the No. 3 seed.
In the state tournament, Hoquiam will face the winner of No. 6 Deer Park versus No. 11 Bellevue Christian while Montesano takes on the No. 8 Cashmere/No. 9 Naches Valley winner. Both games are scheduled to start at 1 p.m. Friday at the Columbia Playfields in Richland.
Pace thinks after winning the district title, his team is primed to add another state-title banner to the fence surrounding Dick Tagman Field.
“They’ve come a long way. … It’s been a lot of lessons and I don’t think you can look at them as this young team anymore,” he said. “I think this team is going to be ready to continue on the tradition we’ve had in the past where they realize this is something that happens because of the time they put in.”
Hoquiam 020 401 0 – 7 5 3
Montesano 310 100 3 – 8 11 2
WP: Timmons (5.1 IP, 5 R, 3 ER, 2 H, 7 BB, 6 K). LP: Blood (6.1 IP, 8 R, 7 ER, 11 H, 2 BB, 7 K).
Leading hitters: Hoquiam – Cady (2-4); Blood (1-4, HR, R, 3 RBI); LaBounty (1-4, HR, R, RBI); Folkers (1-2, R, 2 RBI); Bonney-Spradlin (0-1, 2 R, RBI, 3 BB). Montesano – Robinson (3-4, 3B, 3 R); Kersker (3-4, R, 3 RBI); Timmons (2-4, HR, R, 4 RBI); Karr (1-3, R); Parkin (1-3); Hatton (1-3).
Consolation semifinal: Elma 18, Seton Catholic 3
Elimination game: Columbia-White Salmon 6, Elma 2 (Elma eliminated)