The Medical Lake Cardinals continue to carefully march towards a potential Northeast A League baseball regular season championship.
With a 3-0 week behind them following wins of 12-0 last Tuesday against Newport and then a doubleheader sweep of Freeman Friday - 7-1 and 8-4 - the Cards ran their winning streak to six, crafting a 3 1/2 game lead with five games remaining.
Medical Lake (12-1 NEA, 12-2 overall) will play at Lakeside (8-4, 8-5) Friday, travel to Chewelah (8-4, 9-4) Tuesday before wrapping up league play next Friday, May 3 with Senior Day against Riverside (5-6, 5-7).
“We just took care of business,” head coach Kerry Kelly said of the Newport game where Medical Lake sent 15 batters to the plate and scored 11 runs in making short work of the winless (0-11) Grizzlies.
Taylor Dormaier, Adam Paulson. Roman Kissack and Connor Cranston each had a pair of hits in the mercy rule shortened 5-inning game. The Cardinals pounded out 12 hits, among them triples by Dormaier and Paulson.
“It was a good opportunity to see a bunch of young kids again,” Kelly said. Among them was Cory Wagner. Wagner got his second start of the year but was held to just 35 pitches with Kelly’s intent to send him to the mound in the second Freeman game.
The Newport win was the perfect lead-in for a key match-up at Freeman, Kelly said. The Scotties loomed large as yet another team that was poised to derail Medical Lake’s chances at a regular season title.
“That was a huge night for us Friday,” Kelly said. Due to wet weather earlier in the day, the pair of games originally scheduled to be played at Freeman were played in Medical Lake because of superior field conditions.
The opener lived up to billing with the Cardinals scratching out a run in the top of the second when Dylan Rushfeldt reached on an error and scored on a Brayden Hale single. It was 3-0 an inning later with Medical Lake getting a pair of runs with two outs on a Dormaier double, Kasey Kelly’s triple and Paulson’s ground out.
Medical Lake got insurance in the top of the sixth scoring four runs off a Rushfeldt single, triples from Calero and Dormaier and a Kelly double down into the left field corner and suddenly it was a safe 7-0 lead.
“You know game one we’re always going to give the ball to Adam (Paulson),” Kelly said. “We put the ball in his hands and we know we have a chance to win.” But in Friday’s opener, Kelly admitted he thought Paulson “didn’t have his best stuff.”
In the second game Kasey Kelly got his coach/dad’s attention with a crushing home run that cleared the bleachers – out of the park – when he clubbed the first pitch he saw in the first inning to give the Cards a near instant 1-0 lead.
It was a monster shot that cleared the fence at the 375-foot mark, guesstimated at traveling “400, maybe 415 feet,” Kerry Kelly said. “If it had been hit to center (Medical Lake athletics director) Chris (Soring) would have been replacing a window (in the press box).” The Cardinals upped the lead to 2-0 with a Paulson single and Kissack’s RBI double.
ML would add to the lead in the top of the fourth with two outs when Dylan Rushfeldt singled and was sent home by Jason Calero’s double. Calero scored on a Cranston single making it a 4-0 game.
And as they did in the opener, the Cardinals had one more big inning in them where they scored four times in the top of the fifth. Three straight singles from Wagner, Dormaier and Kelly set the stage for a Paulson double that scored a pair. Kelly later scored on a wild pitch and Paulson stole home for an 8-0 lead.
Wagner, a freshman, played a bigger part on the mound in the nightcap.
“I’ll tell you, that kid went out – you could see the nerves the first inning, his mechanics were a little bit different – but he settled in and boy, he threw a great game,” Kelly said. “I can’t say enough about how big a performance by a freshman in a big game.”
Wagner’s curve ball, “Was just dynamic,” Kelly said. Wagner went 4 2/3rds innings, gave up four earned runs and struck out seven.
Another freshman, Calero, the Cards second baseman, also earned accolades from his coach.
“(Calero) just had a night; that kid just hit the ball hard all night.” He gave the Cardinals some pop in the bottom part of the lineup going 2-for 3 with a run scored and an RBI in the opener. Yet another freshman, Connor Cranston, contributed a pair of hits in both the Newport game and Freeman nightcap.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.