ELMA — High school baseball games are scheduled for seven innings.
So, it stands to reason that the game can change hands even when the final out is in progress, just ask Elma and Hoquiam on Tuesday.
Leading through all but one out in the game, Hoquiam watched as a dropped third strike was thrown wide of first base to allow Elma to score the winning run in a thrilling 5-4 victory in Evergreen 1A play at Eagle Field.
Elma (8-5, 10-5) tied the game on a two-out, bases-loaded passed ball three pitches earlier in the at-bat and never held the lead until the end.
“We’ve been telling these guys that we need to finish games — just like Yogi Berra said, ‘It ain’t over until it is over’ — and keep battling,” Elma head coach Scott Rowland said. “They did a helluva job doing that, keeping it alive through the seventh inning.”
“You have to play seven innings, not 6 2/3 innings,” HHS head coach Steve Jump said. “You have to play all seven. We have to give our pitchers support. We did it to Sammy (Lowder) the other night and to Skyler today. They were cruising along and we let them right back in.”
For six-plus innings, Hoquiam freshman left-handed ace Skyler Jump had Elma under his control. Through the first four innings, Jump had eight strikeouts, gave up just one hit and enjoyed a 4-0 lead.
In the fifth inning, the Eagles adjusted to Jump’s fastball and sharp breaking pitches to mount a two-out rally. Seth Osgood snapped the shutout with a two-out RBI double that HHS outfielders Sammy Lowder and Blake Kelly nearly caught on diving attempts in left-center field.
On the next at-bat, Todd Swinhart smacked a two-run single through to right field for a 4-3 score.
“For a freshman, Skyler is a hell of a thrower,” Rowland said. “He’s a great thrower. The speed change (from Rainier to today) made it look like Skyler was throwing 100 mph. Right off the bat, we were off-balance. The kids got back into it in the fifth and figured out a way.”
Jump escaped with a strikeout, got through the sixth inning without drama and started the seventh inning with his 11th strikeout of the game. However, the freshman passed the 100-pitch count on the strikeout.
He walked Cole Thornock and gave up a double to left-center field to Tristan Robinette before leaving the mound for reliever Kolby Standstipher.
Standstipher walked Osgood to load the bases with one out, then got a fielder’s choice groundout from Swinhart — second baseman Josh Bishop threw to catcher Jack Skinner for the force at home — for the second out.
Against Ricky Escalante, Standstipher got a 1-2 count before a breaking ball down low was delivered. Escalante held up on a check-swing and the ball went off Skinner’s leg pads for a passed ball. Robinette scored from third to tie the game, 4-4.
Standstipher got Escalante to a full count with runners on second and third and two outs. Escalante swung and missed on another breaking ball, but Skinner dropped the third strike. Escalante took off for first base, Osgood streaked for home and Skinner thew the ball wide of first baseman Joel Brydon to end the game.
“Our throwers threw well enough to keep us in the game,” Rowland added. “Even though we dropped down four, we crawled back, made the pitching change at the right time to keep them off-balance and it gave us a chance to come back in the seventh. We got the two and we’re happy as hell.”
Hoquiam (8-5, 9-5) opened the game by scoring two runs without the benefit of a hit off Elma starter Rio Ortega. Lead-off batter Bishop turned a walk into the game’s first run on a stolen base, a passed ball and an RBI groundout by Jerod Steen.
Kelly stroked a double to right field, then used a passed ball and a wild pitch to score for a 2-0 lead.
Ortega settled in and got out of the threat, keeping the Eagles close while they worked on getting after Skyler Jump. Ortega stranded eight HHS runners in his 5 2/3 innings of work, giving up just single runs in the third and fourth inning — Kelly’s RBI single in the third and Lowder’s RBI triple in the fourth.
Thornock came in to finish the sixth inning and escaped a mini-jam in the seventh to set up the situation for the Eagles. Thornock picked up the win, while Standstipher was given the loss.
“It takes a team to win or lose and I know there are a few guys who feel like this loss is on their shoulders,” coach Jump said. “We’ll bounce back. It takes a team.”
Jump cited Kelly, Tristan Stutesman and Joel Brydon on offense and Bishop for his defense at second base.
Today, both teams are in league doubleheaders — Elma hosts Forks and Hoquiam hosts Rainier.
Hoq 201 100 0 — 4 7 2 Elma 000 030 2 — 5 6 2
Jump, Ko. Standstipher (7) and Skinner; Ortega, Thornock (6) and Swinhart.
RBI: Hoquiam — Steen, Kelly, Lowder. Elma — Swinhart 2, Osgood. Three hits: Elma — Robinette. Two hits: Hoquiam — Kelly, Stutesman. Triple: Hoquiam — Lowder. Doubles: Hoquiam — Kelly. Elma — Robinette, Osgood.
Winning pitcher — Thornock (one strikeout). Losing pitcher — Ko. Standstipher (one strikeout, one walk).