Medical Lake wraps up NEA title, top playoff seed
Cardinals will host bi-Districts Saturday
Medical Lake’s Connor Cranston (3) slides safely into home for his team’s final run in last Friday’s 6-1 win over Riverside.
The emotions of a between-games Senior Day recognition ceremony may have gotten to Adam Paulson, but few Riverside batters did last Friday.
Paulson, a four-year letter winner at Medical Lake in multiple sports, used his time with the microphone to choke back some tears and offer a heartfelt thank you to his parents, teammates, coaches and the community in his final regular season baseball game at Holliday Field.
Then he went out and delivered a three-hit, 12 strikeout, one walk dominating complete game 5-0 win as Medical Lake capped a doubleheader sweep of the Riverside Rams.
Earlier, another senior, Taylor Dormaier, went five innings on the mound, and two more behind the plate in a 6-1 victory in which he too surrendered just three hits against one of only three teams to hand the Cardinals a loss in 20 games to date.
The wins, Medical Lake’s third and fourth in a row, came on the heels of a 9-6 10-inning win Tuesday in Chewelah and allowed the Cardinals (16-2 Northeast A, 17-3 overall) to finish as regular season champions of the NEA and earn the league’s No. 1 seed going into Saturday’s Bi-District playoffs at Holliday Field in competition with the Caribou Trail League.
Cashmere (14-0, 19-1) is the CTL champion.
The remaining four teams met in a loser-out play-in game this past Tuesday with the winners advancing to Saturday’s playoffs at Medical Lake. The Cardinals will face the winner of Freeman (11-9) and Brewster (14-5) at 10 a.m. while Cashmere (19-1) meets the winner of Lakeside (12-7) and Cascade of Leavenworth (11-8) at 12:30. Those winners meet at 3 for the region’s top seed to state in Yakima Memorial Day weekend.
“We basically have to win one game to go to state and the second game will be for seeding,” Cardinals’ head coach Kerry Kelly said.
But the run to Saturday began earlier in the week with a clutch performance at Chewelah.
“It was just one of those back and fourth games; it wasn’t necessarily a pretty game on either side,” Kelly said. “We just kept battling back, they don’t play all that nervous and somehow get it done.”
In that decisive 10th inning Jordan Calero laced a one-out single and Dormaier worked an 0-2 count into a two-out walk. Then Kasey Kelly whacked a 3-2 pitch for a triple scoring two. Paulson followed with another triple to score Kelly. Both Kelly and Paulson each went 3 for 5 with a pair of RBIs.
Then Paulson, who pitched the final five innings in relief of three Cardinal pitchers, threw just nine pitches to get three Cougars batters to strike out to end the game and earn his sixth win of the season.
Friday’s opener had its tone set in the first inning when Riverside advanced a runner to third with one out but never got that run across as centerfielder Cory Wagner caught a short fly and then fired a laser shot home to Kelly who tagged the runner out for an inning-ending double play.
Medical Lake would use that defensive momentum to score four times. Wagner led off with a double, scoring on a Dormaier single. Paulson singled home Dormaier and Roman Kissack’s double scored Paulson. A Riverside throwing error allowed Kissack to score and the Cardinals never looked back.
“That play Cory Wagner made was just perfect,” Kelly said. “On that play Cory Wagner gets behind the ball and throws a laser to Kasey (Kelly) to make a two-handed tag (at the plate),” Kerry Kelly explained. “I mean it doesn’t get any prettier than that; that kid has an arm.”
Wagner was 3 for 3, scored twice and had an RBI. Dormaier finished 3 of 4 with a pair of RBIs.
Kissack came on in relief of Dormaier in the sixth with Dormaier going behind the plate and Kelly moving to short. That shift in the lineup paid off in another text-book play at the plate in the sixth.
With runners on the corners and one out, the Cardinals called for a pitchout as the runner at first attempted to steal. The throw didn’t go to second, but rather to Kelly who gunned it home to Dormaier who tagged the runner out at the plate.
“Quite honestly we work on that a lot hoping they run from third,” the Cards’ coach said. “We’ll sacrifice that runner at second.”
In the nightcap Medical Lake got off to a slower start, leading just 1-0 through five when Dylan Rushfelt opened the inning with a walk, but appeared to be left stranded when the next two batters went out.
Then Wagner, Dormaier, Kelly, Paulson and Kissack stroked consecutive single to blow the game open. Wagner, Kelly and Kissack all went 2 for 3.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.