CHEHALIS — In the pages of the Chehalis-Aberdeen baseball rivalry, this particular district semifinal game will bring a smile to Bearcat fans and nightmares to Bobcat fans.
Holding a 2-0 lead entering the bottom of the seventh inning, Aberdeen walked the tightrope one too many times as Chehalis scored three runs with two outs and the bases loaded to grab a 3-2 victory in the District IV 2A baseball tournament at Bearcat Stadium.
The walk-off victory — Tanner Gueller’s hard-hit RBI single to the right-center field fence ended the game — gives the Evergreen 2A champions a spot in Friday’s district title game against Tumwater and a regional berth. For Aberdeen (13-8), it’ll have to win twice on Saturday afternoon to grab the district’s third and final regionals berth.
“It just got a little harder for us — we must win two on Saturday,” AHS head coach Shon Schreiber said. “It is heartbreaking and it hurts. We just need to keep our heads up and go back to work to go get what we want. It is still there for us to take.”
For six innings, AHS left-handed starting pitcher Collin Nord held Chehalis to just one hit. The host Bearcats threatened in the sixth inning with two runners on and one out, but Nord and his teammates escaped without damage. Chehalis also ran itself out of a threat earlier in the contest.
Nord had seven strikeouts and three walks in the first six innings. He also had the lead, thanks to Charlie Dietrich’s two-run single with the bases loaded in the fifth inning. It was Aberdeen’s most significant threat to Chehalis starter Keylen Steen, who was driven from the mound after a lead-off double by Nord in the top of the sixth.
But with three outs left in the contest, Chehalis found its timing on Nord.
Evergreen 2A Conference MVP Brady Calkins slugged a lead-off double to left-center field before Nord struck out Alex Cox for the first out.. Michael Forgione got on base with a bunt single just after Calkins moved to third on a wild pitch. Forgione stole second in front of Anthony Painter, but Painter struck out two pitches later.
Pinch-hitter Bowe McKay induced Nord to walk him to load the bases, bringing up the top of the Chehalis batting order. Dugan Shirer got his job done, but on a strange play.
Shirer hit a squibber down the first-base line. Initially foul, Nord and first baseman Reilly Fairchild let the ball roll. The ball trickled into fair territory as Fairchild picked it up and tried to tag Shirer running by. At the same time, Calkins scored from third for the Bearcats’ first run.
Nord returned to the mound and worked a full count to Toby Johnson. One strike away from a regional berth, Johnson walked to force in the tying run from third. It was Nord’s 115th and final pitch of the game and Schreiber came out and replaced him with Dietrich.
Bases loaded, tie game, two outs, Gueller slugged a 2-2 pitch from Dietrich deep to the right-center field fence for the walk-off hit and RBI, igniting a large celebration on and off the field.
“They took pitches; at the bottom of the lineup, with two new guys in there, we walked them,” Schreiber said. “We got to the top of the order and they’re good. Now we just have to work that much harder (to advance).
On Saturday, Aberdeen will take on Centralia at 1:30 p.m. in a district loser-out contest. The winner will face the winner of the Mark Morris-Capital game in a winner-to-regional, loser-out game at 4 p.m. All games at Bearcat Stadium in Chehalis.
Abe 000 020 0 — 2 6 2
Che 000 000 3 — 3 5 3
Nord, Dietrich (7) and Williamson; Steen, Painter (6) and Gueller, Steen (6).
RBI: Aberdeen — Dietrich 2. Chehalis — Shirer, T. Johnson, Gueller. Two hits: Aberdeen — Dietrich. Doubles: Aberdeen — Nord. Chehalis — Calkins.
Winning pitcher — Painter (four strikeouts, one walk). Losing pitcher — Nord (nine strikeouts, five walks).