By PAUL DELANEY
On paper they had nothing to play for other than pride.
But as Medical Lake closed out the 2012 AA American Legion season you might not have known they were supposed to just go through the motions following winning two of their final three games last week.
Starting off with a 13-7 win over Chewelah last Tuesday, Medical Lake was squashed 10-0 by University Thursday and then finished with a tense 10-9 win over Mt. Spokane this past Sunday. They finished their American League season at 5-14 and in last place in their division.
In their finale at Mt. Spokane, it could have easily been another game that got away from ML in the summer season. However, a combination of timely offense and defense in the late going saved the day.
Trailing 7-0 after three innings, Medical Lake put together a huge 8-run fifth inning that gave them the lead, got a pair of runs in the sixth for insurance and then held on.
In almost typical Medical Lake fashion, their rally began with one out after Andy Hansen bounced out 5-to-3.
But a walk to Nathan Sorci, followed by a Deven Wesebaum single and Justin Hunt getting hit by a pitch loaded the bases. Marcus Smith's single scored two. That was followed by an out which scored ML's third run of the inning and advanced Smith to second.
Taylor Dormaier walked followed by a Jared King single that scored Smith. Tommy Wilkie singled to score Dormaier.
Hansen, who led off the inning with the out, got a second chance and whacked an RBI double scoring Wilkie. Sorci followed with a triple, scoring Hansen,
“Those were some huge at bats,” head coach Kerry Kelly said. “We seem to play the tough teams pretty good.”
The additional two runs, first viewed as insurance but ultimately proving to be the winning margin, came when Smith got hit by a pitch, Cole Weber singled, Dormaier struck out but Wilkie's single delivered a pair of RBIs.
“It was one of those games where we got down early, but a few more time outs, a few more conferences and we kept chipping (away) and have them focus,” Kelly said. “We had that one big inning.”
After Mt. Spokane scored two in their half of the sixth to make it another nail-biter, it was Medical Lake's defense in a pressure-packed finish that decided things – twice.
Dormaier took care of the sixth. “He makes a diving play to his left and gets up and throws it to the second baseman, an errant throw, but Tommy Wilkie comes up with a great catch,” Kelly said.
The visitors led off their half of the seventh with a double. The next batter ripped a shot down the first base line that Wilkie knocked down and made the first out off a ball that could easily have been another double with no outs.
“We managed to close the inning out on a pop-up to third base and then a strikeout to end the game,” Kelly said.
Kissack went four innings on the mound but got help in relief from Wesebaum. “Roman once again is doing a great job,” Kelly said. “He's just not getting the support.”
Medical Lake got two-hit performances from Smith, Rushfeldt, Wilkie and Sorci.
In a game played at Cheney last Tuesday and rescheduled from an earlier rainout, Medical Lake jumped on the visitors from Chewelah with a 6-run first that propelled them to a 10-2 lead after three innings.
“We just hit, hit, hit that game,” Kelly said. Medical Lake racked up a season-high 17 hits. “We got out on them early with six runs in the first.”
The big blow for Medical Lake came from Wesebaum's bat, a bases-clearing triple. Sorci, Hansen, Rushfeldt and Wesebaum each had three hits. Dormaier pitched a complete game.
University made sure there was not another upset in the cards, as had been the case when Medical Lake scored a 7-6 win June 25 when they broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth scoring seven runs. Ultimately, after U-Hi added two runs in the fifth and another in the sixth, the game ended on the 10-run rule.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.