By PAUL DELANEY
The Medical Lake AA American Legion baseball team continues to be a puzzling group.
One night – like this past Monday – Medical Lake played the part of giant killers and overachievers when they pulled off a dramatic 7-5 win over University. The Spokane Valley visitors, who with a 5-1 record going into the game, were one of the top teams in the American League.
Then there are the times when they leave one to scratch their heads and be baffled. Like when Medical Lake started last week with a split in games against Central Valley (3-8), winning 6-0 and losing 7-6 and then lost 4-3 to a 1-9 North Central team June 22 or 7-4 to 3-5 Mead last Saturday.
The games leave ML with a 3-7 record in the American League with games this past Tuesday versus Chewelah (4-6/National League) and a doubleheader last night (July 27) at home with West Valley (2-6/American). It could be a great opportunity to solidify a possible playoff berth.
But then again it all depends on which team takes the field.
Medical Lake has made a living knocking off the top dogs, like they did June 11 with a 7-6 upset of Ferris. And the win over U-Hi was just as big according to head coach Kerry Kelly.
“I told the boys U-Hi is one of the best programs year-in and year-out in Spokane so this was just a huge win,” Kelly said.
Medical Lake got the big win with a huge six-run fourth and then closed it out with timely defense. Medical Lake trailed 3-0 going into the inning.
They loaded the bases for Odessa's Cade Weber who came up and hit a critical double that produced 2 RBIs. Roman Kissack's single added a third run.
Medical Lake got two more runners on with walks and Justin Hunt stroked a 2-out double for another pair of RBIs, ending up at third on the relay. The final run came when Nathan Sorci from Reardan singled Hunt home.
“Deven Wesebaum threw a good game, he went four innings,” Kelly said of his Reardan import. “Then Roman Kissack came in and held it together.”
University never went away, however, as would be expected from a team that routinely visits the postseason. “They challenged us with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth and had already put a run across to make it 7-5,” Kelly said. But Taylor Dormaier's stab of a ball up the middle started a 6-4-3 double play.
“Your instinct would be to go to first, he turned, got his hips squared, made a relay to second and then Cade Weber, our second baseman just makes a great play to get us out of a really tough jam,” Kelly explained. “We're (up) 7-5 at that point and we've got their 3-4-5 hitter and held on in the sixth.”
Versus Mead, Medical Lake was holding a 4-2 lead going into the sixth inning.
“You run out of pitching or you miss an opportunity on a play,” Kelly said.
“The offense is hitting the ball, we have good team speed,” Kelly said. “We're doing all the things, it's just we're a hit or a play away.”
Case-in-point, Medical Lake had the bases loaded against North Central in a 4-3 loss last Thursday.
“We have the bases loaded, two outs, bottom of the seventh you know, we're a hit away,” Kelly said. “To start that inning off we hit a scorching line drive to left field that if it's one foot to the left or right it probably goes for a double of triple, but it almost took his glove off when he caught it.”
Medical Lake got a pair of hits each from Kissack, Hunt and Andrew Hansen against North Central but was unable to rally from the 3-0 advantage the visitors had built with timely hitting and some errors in their 3-run second.
We're a pretty good ball club, Kelly said. “We're one play away.”
It the split with Central Valley Wesebaum threw a complete game, a 4-hitter in the win. Markus Smith from Odessa had three hits and Hunt a double. Jared King's three hit effort in the nightcap included a homerun and a double.
“Overall we're playing pretty good, win or lose,” Kelly said.
Kelly likes the fact that on any given night he never knows who will come to the rescue. “When I make up that lineup the one through six hitters, the sixth guy can be hitting leadoff, the one guy sixth,” Kelly explained.
“We're more a singles, line drive hitting team,” Kelly said. “We're not much of a power team.”
Team speed and what Kelly called a good defense are the glue that is keeping things together heading into next week's Wood Bat Tournament, a portion of which Medical Lake will host.
One other schedule note for Medical Lake sees games with Cheney, originally scheduled for this Saturday, June 30 at Holliday Field, moving to Monday, July 9.
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.