On Tuesday, May 3, the Montesano Bulldogs left Tenino with a bad taste in their mouths.
One day later and in the most important game of their season to date, the Bulldogs’ palates were quickly cleansed.
Using a nine-run first inning as the proverbial mouthwash, Montesano earned an 11-4 victory over the Beavers at Vessey Field in Montesano, with it staking claim to another 1A Evergreen League title.
“I think we were all a little bit shell-shocked after last night’s game. We honestly felt we could go into Tenino and at least get one game,” Montesano head coach Mike Osgood said of Tuesday’s doubleheader losses that set up a winner-take-all game for the league title on Wednesday, May 4.
“We just told the guys, ‘That wasn’t us. We are better than this. We just need to regroup.’ There wasn’t one head that was hanging and you wouldn’t know if we won or lost last night. … These guys knew they needed one more game and it was going to be (in Montesano) and it was going to be special.”
Special it was, as the Bulldogs wasted no time in building what would eventually become an insurmountable lead.
After Monte starting pitcher Cam Taylor worked through a scoreless top half of the first, the Bulldogs offense gave him a lot of run support.
Monte (15-5 overall, 10-2 1A Evergreen) scored five runs off Tenino starter Jack Burkhardt, who lasted two-thirds of an inning before being relieved by Mikey Vasser, who hit the first batter he faced — Bulldogs shortstop Bode Poler — and followed by surrendering three straight singles to Josh Wills, Jackson Busz and Isaiah Pierce.
By the time the dust had settled on the Monte half of the first, the Bulldogs had scored nine runs on six hits — all singles — two hit batsmen, two walks, an error and a balk.
It was up to Taylor and the Montesano offense to make the lead hold up, and outside of allowing three runs in the top of the third on a walk and a two-run single by Tenino catcher Austin Gonia, the Bulldogs defense did just that.
Taylor allowed three runs — none earned — on three hits in three innings pitched with relievers Skylar Bove (IP, 4H, R, ER) and Busz (IP, 0H, 0R, K) pitching the sixth and seventh innings, respectively, to close out the victory.
“Last night, we fell behind in counts and it felt like we were pitching from behind all night long and our defense wasn’t at the level it usually is,” Osgood said. “Tonight, in all phases we were clicking early on. … Cam gets the ball right back (after suffering a loss on Tuesday) and gives us five strong innings. Cam was huge tonight.”
The pitching staff was bolstered by a defense that made the plays in front of them, highlighted by Isaac Pierce charging in from his third base position on a slow grounder by Vasser and firing the ball across to John Kling at first to end the Beavers’ third inning.
“We know our infield is a really solid part of our team,” said Pierce, who also belted a solo home run in the fifth — his second in two nights — for good measure. “We knew we had to make the plays and we did. We stepped up to the challenge.”
Pierce added that the team felt it had unfinished business after the previous night’s losses, the program’s first losses in league since the 2016 season.
“We knew what we had to do,” he said. “We were all mad about yesterday. It wasn’t our best day and we knew we had to show up and work hard.”
The game was originally scheduled for Thursday, May 5, but with the weather forecast predicting a high chance of rain, school administrators decided to push the game up to Wednesday.
It worked out well for the Bulldogs, as they had little time to dwell on Tuesday’s misfortune.
“We just wanted to get back out there,” Osgood said. “We knew we were sitting fine at pitching and had a lot of guys available. … The guys just wanted to play. That was the biggest thing, just getting out and playing. I wasn’t expecting a nine-spot to start the game. But I said, ‘Let’s get ahead early. Play fast and play strong and be us,’ and they did that.”
Osgood added their response after what could have been devastating losses the evening before showed the type of mental fortitude the team possesses.
“I think it just showed what type of kids they are. They are going to battle,” he said. “They went to Tenino thinking they were going to win two games last night and when that didn’t happen they were like, ‘Well, that’s not us. We’re just going to go battle,’ and they did that.”
While winning a league title in a pressure-packed situation on their home field was a thrill, Pierce said the team has larger goals they are chasing.
“It’s a small step because we have big goals we are chasing,” he said. “We want that hardware at the end of the year.”
Tenino 003 001 0 — 4 7 2
Montesano 901 010 x — 11 9 1
Tenino — Gonia (2-3, 2B, R, 2RBIs), Sayamnet (2-3), Feltus (1-4, R), Knox (1-4, R), Vasser (1-3). LP – Burkhardt (0.2 IP, 3H, 7R, 3ER, 2BB).
Montesano — Busz (2-2, 2B, 2RBIs), Harris (2-3, R), Isaac Pierce (1-4, HR, 2R, 2RBIs), Isaiah Pierce (1-3, R, 2RBIs). Wills (1-2, 2R, RBI), Poler (1-2, 3RBIs), K. Ames (1-2, R, RBI). WP – Taylor (5 IP, 3H, 3R, 0ER, 3K, 3BB).