CASTLE ROCK — Perennial baseball powerhouse Meridian ended the seasons of a pair of Harbor teams Saturday at Castle Rock High School.
The Trojans topped Hoquiam, 5-2, in the 1A baseball tournament regional final.
Hoquiam advanced to the final by outlasting Charles Wright, 4-3 in 11 innings. Meridian opened the tripleheader by blanking Montesano, 3-0.
The Grizzlies ended the season with a record of 15-9. Evergreen League champion Monte ended its run with a record of 18-3.
In each game, Meridian’s pitching strangled the bats of Bulldog and Grizzly hitters, respectively. In the opening game, 6-foot-7 ace Chase Heslep allowed three hits en route to tossing a complete-game shutout. In the championship, Jeremy Brockman went the distance, scattering four hits.
Meridian 5, Hoquiam 2
Four runs in the first two frames gave the Trojans an insurmountable lead. In the first, catcher Johnny Murphy singled up the middle, stole second and went to third on a balk. Brockman walked to put runners on the corners, and lanky designated hitter Chad Richter lined a two-run double to right field.
Meridian tacked on two more in the second en route to chasing Hoquiam starting pitcher Ryan Burnett. Jacob Plagerman led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Tanner Tutterow’s single put runners on the corners, and leadoff man Tucker Bronkema was hit by a pitch to load the bases and end Burnett’s day. Inheriting a one-out bases-loaded situation, Jacob Steen minimized the damage to two runs after Plagerman came home on a passed ball and a squeeze bunt by Murphy plated Tutterow.
Steen threw six solid innings in relief, allowing only one hit and one run.
The Grizzlies put their first run on the board in the bottom of the third as Steen aided his own cause with a RBI double that scored Sammy Lowder.
Trailing 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth, the Grizzlies squandered their best opportunity to rally. Anthony Chapin led off the inning with a walk, and Joel Brydon followed with a single up the middle. However, Brockmann quickly recovered, getting a strikeout and pair of fly outs to end the threat.
Meridian tacked on an insurance run in the sixth when Plagerman used a balk, passed ball and wild pitch to come around score after a single.
The Grizzlies closed the scoring in the sixth with a Drew Bravos sacrifice fly driving in catcher Ronnie Espedal.
“I think that emotional win over Charles Wright really zapped up just a bit. But what a game, and what a way to finish the season for us,” said Hoquiam coach Steve Jump. “Meridian is a great club, they deserve to be going on to Yakima, but it’s a true honor for us to get back to the final eight. Last year we were a five-win team, and now we’re here, this has been nothing but a successful year.”
Hoquiam 4, Charles Wright 3 (11 innings)
The Grizzlies advanced to the regional title game after a pulsating extra-inning victory.
After squandering numerous scoring opportunities earlier in extra frames, the Grizzlies finally took advantage in the top of the eleventh. Chapin led off with a single, and after a strikeout, moved to second on an error that put Lowder on first. Burnett walked to load the bases. After another strikeout, Espedal drew a 3-2 walk to push Chapin across the plate and give the Grizzlies the winning margin.
Working his second inning of relief, Burnett retired the side in order in the bottom of the eleventh to end the game.
A gritty, nine-inning pitching performance by Lowder kept the Grizzlies in the game throughout. The lanky sophomore southpaw tossed 112 pitches in the afternoon heat, and only allowed runs in the fourth inning.
Leading 3-0 at the time, the Grizzlies watched their lead dissipate in a hurry. Lowder allowed a pair of walks to open the bottom of the fourth, and shortstop Nate Mondou gave the Tarriers their first hit of the game with a two-run triple. Koby Dietz followed with a sac fly, plating Mondou and evening the game at 3-all.
The Grizzlies scratched out runs in three of the first four innings to build a 3-0 lead. In the first, Michael Browne’s fielder’s choice scored Burnett. Browne’s second RBI came in the third inning, this time a double that scored Espedal. Jake Guined led off the top of the fourth with a double, moved to third on a sac bunt by Chapin and came home to score on a Brydon single.
“Sammy’s a gritty, I’ll-go-get-him-guy, he doesn’t always come across that way, but that’s who he is, and today he really showed that,” Jump said. “We were fortunate to have some pretty flawless defense behind us today in both games, but his arm really kept us in it.”
Both teams had prime scoring opportunities fall by the wayside in extra innings. The Grizzlies put the go-ahead run in scoring position in the eighth and ninth but were unable to convert. The Tarriers had runners on first and second in the tenth with only one out before Burnett worked himself out of the jam with a strikeout and groundout.
Jump was effusive in his praise for both his seniors and coaching staff. Playing their final prep game for the Grizzlies, were Chapin, Browne, Burnett and Cody Crowell.
Jump also commended longtime assistant Wayne Ross who was coaching his last game for the Grizzlies.
“These are the guys who make this program what it is,” Jump signed off.
Meridian 3, Montesano 0
For the second straight year, the Trojans ended Montesano’s season.
Meridian gave starting pitcher Heslep all the help he would need in the first inning.
Second-place hitter Johnny Murphy reached base on an error, stole second and moved up to third on a passed ball. After Heslep took strike two from Layne Bruner, Monte catcher Tucker Ibabao tried to pick off Murphy at third, Murphy bolted for home and evaded the throw back to Ibabao to give the Trojans a 1-0 lead.
The Trojans tacked on a second run when J.J.Hansen singled up the middle, plating Jeremy Brockmann.
After the top of the first, the game settled in the pitcher’s duel that many anticipated.
After Monte opened the bottom of the first with a single by Shad Rogers and a fielder’s choice by Bruner, Heslep retired the next 11 batters. The Bulldogs went without a base runner until Ibabao led off the fifth with a single.
Meanwhile, Bruner began to find a groove of his own. After struggling with the location of his breaking ball early, Bruner retired 11 of 12 at one point, and used a little slick fielding of his own to work out of a potential sixth inning jam. Bruner finished allowing only two earned runs and striking out eleven.
Leading 2-0, Brockmann led off the sixth by drawing a walk, Trojan designated hitter Richter tried to move the runner with a sacrifice bunt, but Bruner made an acrobatic diving grab to catch the pop-up and threw to first to double off Brockman.
The Trojans tacked on an insurance run in the seventh. Tanner Tutterson drew a one-out walk and scored from first on a Murphy single to right that was bobbled.
The Bulldogs looked like they might be able to string together a rally in the seventh. Austin Baker was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a passed ball. Heslep, however, struck out the next batter and got a pair of flyouts to end the game.
Heslep was equally efficient and effective, needing only 72 pitches en route to a complete game two-hitter.
“It was just one of those days in baseball,” Monte coach Mike Bruner said. “The odd play to score the run in the first, really uncharacteristic of us. We bounced back, but everything we hit was hard at someone in a black uniform and everything they hit dropped in some green grass.”
Bruner signed off by thanking his seniors, Baker, Evan Truax, Bradley Spencer and Derrick Waber.
“This group worked really, really hard all year. They’re disappointed because they set some lofty goals and didn’t expect to be done right now. We’re going to miss them, both with leadership and athletic ability.”
Mer 220 001 0 — 5 5 2 Hoq 001 001 0 — 2 4 1
Brockmann and Murphy; Burnett, Steen (2) and Espedal.
RBI: Meridian – Richter 2, Murphy. Hoquiam – Steen, Bravos. Two Hits: Meridian: Plagerman. Hoquiam – Brydon. Doubles: Hoquiam – Steen.
Winning Pitcher – Brockmann (walked two, struck out five). Losing Pitcher – Burnett (walked one, struck out none).
Hoq 101 100 000 01 — 4 10 0 CWA 000 300 000 00 — 3 7 0
Lowder, Burnett (10) and Espedal; Dennis, Mondou (10) and Rush;
RBI: Hoquiam – Browne 2, Brydon, Espedal. Charles Wright – Mondou 2, Deitz. Two Hits: Hoquiam – Browne. Charles Wright – Mondou, Hungate. Triples: Charles Wright – Mondou. Doubles: Hoquiam – Browne.
Winning Pitcher – Burnett (walked none, struck out one). Losing Pitcher – Mondou (walked four, struck out three).
Mer 200 000 1 — 2 4 0 Mon 000 000 0 — 0 2 2
Heslep and Murphy; Bruner and Ibabao.
RBI: Meridian – Hansen, Murphy.
Winning Pitcher – Heslep (walked none, struck out six). Losing Pitcher – Bruner (walked four, struck out 11).