Medical Lake finishes season on a roll, will miss playoffs
Cory Wagner dishes up a pitch in Sunday's second game against Cheney.
Medical Lake completed an important series of games in Spokane American Legion AA play winning five of six games last week.
But they'll still come up short of making the postseason.
Head coach Kerry Kelly said the winning streak to bring his team near to the end of the season, "Was probably the best ball we've played all year," as their streak was snapped in the nightcap of a Sunday doubleheader at home versus Cheney.
"I'm really proud of that because that's one thing we always talked about - ending the year strong," Kelly said. "We've done that and a lot of individual guys have gotten better."
The streak included wins against some of the top teams in the Federal League.
Medical Lake handed Freeman their first loss 2-1 last Tuesday, beat another top team, Lakeside, 4-1 July 11 before sweeping Northwest Christian 12-2 and 10-4 Saturday. Medical Lake beat Cheney 7-5 in the first game of a rescheduled doubleheader Sunday before losing the second game 6-3. Freeman, Cheney and Lakeside are all battling for the playoffs.
Against Freeman and tied 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning with one out, Brayden Hale led off with a single. That was followed by a Dylan Rushfeldt single and a second out. Brent Rosman then looped a single up the middle that scored Hale and Kelly said, couldn't have been placed any better
"Brayden Hale is aggressive and it's probably one of those deals he maybe shouldn't have gone," Kelly said.
But the situation challenged the Freeman outfielder to make a good throw and the gamble paid off. "Thank goodness they didn't execute the throw and Brayden scores," Kelly said. The ball got away from the catcher long enough for Rushfeldt to try to add an insurance run, but he was out at the plate.
The win came as result of very good - and aggressive - base running Kelly said. And a gutsy win or lose call from the Medical Lake third base coach.
Normally Kelly occupies the third base coaching box in high school play but in the summer he takes on more of a manager's role, turning the calls on the base paths over to others - like the guy he calls "JV," or Austin Sharp.
"JV grew some wings that night," Kelly said of the guy who coached Medical Lake's junior varsity program in the spring.
At first Kelly yelled "No, no!" when Sharp waved Hale around third, "I was playing armchair quarterback with my coach," Kelly explained.
Afterwards, Sharp told Kelly, "Coach I just did it, I didn't care." If he scores the rookie coach is the greatest, if he's out he's the worst, that's the life of a third-base coach Kelly said.
Friday, at home against Lakeside, Medical Lake made the best of just five hits and got a stellar performance from Hale, this time not with the bat but pitching as he threw a complete game, giving up five hits. "On the mound he is a bulldog, that kid just makes pitches," Kelly said.
The base running that showed up against Freeman got better versus Lakeside. "We stole a lot of bases, we had the ability to run that night," Kelly said.
Medical Lake scored 12 runs on just six hits but got the benefit of a lot of walks in their opener against Northwest Christian as Hale and Jack Walker each had a pair of hits, including doubles. Cory Wagner had three hits including a triple in the second game.
Scheduling changes forced Medical Lake and Cheney to play a doubleheader this past Sunday, versus playing a home-and-home Sunday and Monday.
"We had two really great ballgames," Kelly said.
Medical Lake put up a five-run fourth in game one with No. 9 hitter Cole Soliday playing a key role with a leadoff single. Wagner followed and Tristen Keith moved the runners up on a sacrifice bunt setting the table for Walker's bases-clearing triple. "The hit parade was kind of on," Kelly said.
In game two, "The two errors really hurt us, they (both) resulted in runs," Kelly said.
Playing their local rival was really rewarding for Kelly. "All those kids knew one another," Kelly said. "It was an intense game but there was so much camaraderie."
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.