A big win can produce a big fall.
So after Medical Lake earned a crucial Northeast A League baseball sweep over Chewelah April 6 it was not out of anyone’s imagination they might serve up a clunker.
That happened with a 4-0 loss last Thursday at Riverside, a game that ended the Cards six-game win streak and handed them their lone NEA loss in a make-up game following a postponement due to weather.
But the swoon was temporary and Medical Lake turned around to hammer Lakeside 11-6 Friday afternoon at home. They maintain a game lead on Freeman who they visit Friday in a doubleheader beginning at 2 p.m. This comes after a Tuesday trip to Newport.
“I can’t put my finger on it,” Cardinals’ head coach Kerry Kelly said of the Riverside game. “Riverside did everything right, I mean they pitched well, they made every single play.”
The Rams (2-4 NEA, 2-5 all games) jumped on starting pitcher Roman Kissack for three runs in the bottom of the first and then limited the Cardinals to a pair of hits, one each from Cory Wagner and Adam Paulson.
Medical Lake (7-1, 8-2) didn’t play bad other than “We were not swinging,” Kelly said. Everything the Cardinals hit was either right to a Riverside player, or they made the play.
“It was just one of those days, Kelly said. Kelly told the team afterwards that the only thing they could do was to go get one back.
And they did just that. “To their credit they played a very good Lakeside team,” Kelly said.
It helped that superstition was back on their side Kelly explained. When Kelly came to the ballpark last Friday and was greeted by his players they had an answer to Thursday’s stumble.
“Coach, we figured what happened,” they told him. “One of the things was I left the No. 4 jersey, we blamed it on coach Josh Smith,” he explained. The jersey belonged to Smith, an assistant coach who moved back to California for work reasons and each Cardinal has worn it this year to keep him part of the team.
Medical Lake jumped on the Eagles for a five-run second in which they used just two hits, three errors and a dropped third strike sprinkled around a sacrifice bunt to score their runs.
But it’s not the other team’s bobbles as much as Medical Lake’s team speed that’s opening the door Kelly explained.
“Kasey (Kelly), Taylor Dormaier, Cory Wagner, Adam Paulson, they put the ball in play and they get down that line and that puts a little added pressure on a shortstop or third baseman to come up with that play,” Kelly said.
The opponents trying to rush things just a little have forced them into added errors.
That was also the case in a two-run fifth where an error, walk, a fielder’s choice and wild pitch got the Cards one run and a steal of home by Tristen Keith made it 8-1. ML’s three run sixth had a similar scenario. Four walks and an error, with Dylan Rushfeldt’s single in the middle pushed the lead to 11-4.
Wagner went 2 for 4 with a pair of RBIs. Dormaier was 1 of 3 and two RBIs as well. Rushfeldt scored three. Paulson went 6 and 1/3 innings, struck out nine, walked four and allowed three earned runs on 12 hits, improving his record to 4-0.
The 12 hits were not unexpected from a Lakeside team Kelly calls one of the best hitting clubs in the NEA. “We minimized their advancing on base, we were hitting the cutoff, we were doing all the right things,” Kelly explained. “We also made plays with runners in scoring position.”
“Focusing on Adam a little bit, he finds a way when he needs to make the big out, or come up with the pitch, he does it,” Kelly said.
The battery of Paulson and catcher Kasey Kelly is not only a powerful weapon, but a catalyst. “It’s such a strong thing because Kasey will shut down the running game, Adam will make a big play, and it’s contagious,” their coach said.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.