Pure joy and jubilation was on display along the first-base line in the immediate moments following the most important victory of the 2018 season to date for the Issaquah Eagles.
The Eagles clinched a berth in the Class 4A baseball state tournament courtesy of a 4-2 victory against the rival Skyline Spartans in a winner-to-state, loser-out KingCo 4A playoff contest on May 11 at Bannerwood Park in Bellevue.
Issaquah pitcher Jared Jongejan got the win on the hill, surrendering a meager six hits and one earned run in a complete-game gem. Issaquah head baseball coach Rob Reese, who is in his 25th season as the Eagles skipper, attained his 400th career win on the diamond.
Jongejan said Reese is the kind of coach who always gets the most out of his players.
“He (Reese) is one of the best coaches I have ever had, so its really fun to see him achieve such a huge accomplishment,” Jongejan said.
Reese wasn’t surprised in the least bit Jongejan dominated on the hill with a berth to the state tournament hanging in the balance.
“Jared has been unbelievable for us all year. He is just so gutsy. That is an unbelievable hitting team (Skyline) over there. He did his job and just battled,” Reese said of Jongejan’s clutch performance.
The Eagles took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Arden Walcott and Tyler Reese each recorded an RBI single in the inning. The Spartans tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth. Skyline’s Will Simpson tripled to center field, scoring Drew Tenczar from first base cutting Issaquah’s lead to 2-1. On the very next at bat, Skyline junior Cole Hinkelman singled, scoring Simpson from third base tying the game at 2-2.
The game remained tied until the top of the sixth. Issaquah sophomore Conner Chan tripled to right field to lead off the inning. Eagles’ senior Derek Gellos singled up the middle on the next at bat, driving in Chan from third base to give Issaquah a 3-2 lead. The Eagles added another run in the top of the seventh when Tyler Reese scored from third base on a passed ball, extending the Eagles’ lead to 4-2.
Issaquah’s longtime head coach was thrilled his team was able to get through the KingCo tournament without being eliminated.
“We’ve been resilient all year. We felt that we are a pretty good team. It is so dang hard to get out of KingCo (tournament). Only two teams move on. For us to do that, it is huge. We clutched up,” Reese said.
Jongejan concurred with Reese’s sentiment.
“We have to do the small things to win. That is what we did tonight,” Jongejan said.
On the third base side of the field, it was a much different environment following the game. Following the postgame conference with his team, Skyline head coach Brandon Hemphill talked with each senior member of his squad before heading back to the dugout for the final time as a team in 2018. Skyline finished the season with an overall record of 14-9.
“Only one team in the state gets to have a happy last meeting and that is what we’re all fighting for. The hardest part about all of this is the seniors because they’ve given so much to the program. They’ve poured their heart and soul into it and have worked hard. We wanted to get it done for them and we were just a couple of hits shy of getting that done tonight,” Hemphill said of the season-ending loss to Issaquah.
The Spartans started off the 2018 season slow but closed out the regular season with six consecutive victories.
“I’m so incredibly proud of them for the buy that we had on this team. We (coaching staff) challenged them about halfway through the season. They made some adjustments and we went on a run. It didn’t end the way we wanted to, but it was a good run,” Hemphill said.