Cheney earns No. 2 seed from American League with nine game win streak, key losses by University
By JOHN McCALLUM
Thanks to a late-season winning streak and some help the Cheney AA American Legion team enters the post season this week in a pretty good position. The Summer Hawks own an 11-game winning streak including nine straight in Spokane American Legion play, and with a couple key losses from fellow American League foe University, captured the AL's No. 2 seed to this week's district tournament.
Six of Cheney's wins came last week over five days, including a no hitter Tuesday and a near no hitter in the season's final day. Tuesday at home against Chewelah, Connor Netz needed just 68 pitches to blank the Cougars (5-13) in the runs and hits category while getting some big support from his teammates in the 10-0, five-inning win.
Cheney broke open the scoreless game with six runs in the bottom of the fourth, the big blow a 3-RBI single to right by Austin Harding. Tanner Smith and Robby Cook also had RBI singles and Jacob Christianson drew a bases loaded walk for another RBI. The Summer Hawks ended the game with four runs in the fifth, two on Christianson's single to right-center and one each on Tanner Gamby's double off the fence in left and Cooks sacrifice fly to left.
Netz was efficient in the win, striking out four and walking two while relying on his defense to back him up.
“Connor did a great job of not doing too much himself, of just throwing strikes,” Summer Hawks' manager Kadeem Smalls said. “He was pretty excited.”
The near no-hitter came in the first game of a doubleheader Friday against North Central and Mead. In the first game against the NC Storm (3-16), Cook saw his no-hit bid come up one batter short, giving up a single with two outs in the bottom of the seventh in Cheney's 4-0 win.
Offensively the Summer Hawks capitalized on three NC errors and several walks while getting singles from Smith, Cook, Netz, Josh Arthur and Sawyer Sims to score one run in both the second and third and two in the fourth. Cook showed good pitch selection, Smalls said, striking out four while “pitching to contact” to keep the ball in play.
In the finale the Summer Hawks got a one-hitter from Smith and Sims for the 8-0 win over 9-9 Mead. Harding had two singles and Arthur a single and double in Cheney's eight-hit evening but the key offensive weapon was Dominic Bonilla, who was 1 for 1 with a double but drew three walks, stole four bases and scored three times.
Tuesday the Summer Hawks got a look at their first-round playoff opponent, Ferris, and for Smalls, it was a good look. Cheney committed an uncharacteristic three errors, but pounded out 11 hits to score in every inning but one and got a yeoman like performance from Harding on the mound for the 7-3 win.
Cheney took the early lead on Netz's RBI double to right in the bottom of the first, scoring Flippo. After a scoreless second for both squads, Ferris (12-7) went on top with two in the third, only to have Cheney regain their advantage on Netz's sacrifice fly scoring Smith and Arthur's RBI double scoring Harding.
Smith's RBI single scoring Cook made it 4-2 in the fourth and Netz's first-pitch solo home run made it 5-2 in the fifth. Ferris cut it to 5-3 in the top of the sixth, but Tyler Gustafson doubled to center to score Cook and Bonilla walked, stole second and third and scored on a passed ball for the final margin.
Harding got the win, giving up three runs on six hits and pitching well, Smalls said, despite a day that began with football conditioning in the early morning and ended with the incoming senior finding out he was taking the mound just 10 minutes before game time. Cook was 3 for 3 at the plate, with Smith and Netz both 2 for 4.
“This was one of our better games, despite the errors,” Smalls said. “We just stayed patient and waited for the opportunities and they came early.”
Cheney opened the week with a road doubleheader sweep of Medical Lake. Both teams battled evenly in the opener, heading into the seventh tied at six. In the top of the seventh, Cheney broke the tie when Netz stroked a single to right and ended up scoring on an error at first on a ball hit by Harding.
Harding was 2 for 4, single and double, and 3 RBIs while Cook was 2 for 4, both singles and an RBI and Arthur 1 for 4 and an RBI. Smith went the distance for the win.
In the nightcap Netz's RBI triple scoring Flippo and Harding's sacrifice fly to right plating Netz was all Cheney ended up needing in their 3-1 win. Flippo and Harding added singles, with Sims getting the win, giving up one run on four hits while striking out eight and throwing 112 pitches in the complete game.
Cheney wraps up the season at 14-5 in league, 17-7 overall, two games ahead of University (11-6) who suffered losses to American League leading Asotin County and Chewelah in their final five games. Smalls likes how his team is playing heading into the district opener with Ferris this afternoon (Thursday) at Al K. Jackson Field in Spokane.
Cheney needs just two wins to qualify for one of four playoff spots to state tournament play in Anacortes July 28-Aug. 2. While Ferris, the National League No. 3 seed, will be a tough match up, Smalls said the Summer Hawks have confidence in all aspects of their game, as well respect for their opponents, but not any fear.
“We're on a good roll,” he said. “We just need to take it one game at a time.”
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.