The regular-season ride was rough — downright bumpy at times.
But none of that mattered Sunday night as the Lakeside Senior Legion baseball team defeated the Kennewick Bandits, 10-7, earning a chance to defend last year’s state championship at the 2010 AAA Senior Legion state tournament July 28 – Aug. 1 in Selah.
“It’s awesome, it was a tough region we had to get through,” head coach Rob Reese said.
The local group of Issaquah, Skyline and Newport players were forced to come from behind twice Sunday, receiving heroics on the mound and at the plate.
Starting pitcher Connor Lawhead played a key role, shutting down a potentially disastrous situation in the top of the fifth inning.
The recent Skyline graduate surrendered four straight singles to start the inning, resulting in a 5-2 deficit.
Obviously rattled, Lawhead listened to his pitching coach and took a deep breath.
“I had to start locating better, I was leaving breaking balls up,” he said.
Lawhead answered by striking out consecutive Kennewick batters and getting a flyout. He went on to record nine straight outs over the next three innings.
In the bottom of the fifth, Lakeside’s Mike Paulson erased the deficit. With two runners on and one out, the Issaquah graduate drilled a pitch over the right-field fence for a three-run home run, tying the game, 5-5.
“I was behind in the count and he threw something off-speed that just hung, and I just hit it out,” Paulson said. “I just drilled it.”
It was the second home run of the summer for Paulson, who ended the day 3-for-4 with four RBI and three runs scored.
He also drove across the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth inning. A two-out walk from Cole Wiper and a two-out single from Jeff Altchech set up Paulson, who drilled a 1-2 pitch up the middle for a 7-6 lead. Spencer Rogers followed with a bases-loaded walk and Reid Dilley picked up a two-run single to close out the eighth with a 10-6 lead.
Kennewick loaded the bases in the ninth inning with no outs using an error, single and walk, but reliever Adrian Sampson slammed the door shut. He forced the Bandits to ground into a double play and snagged a grounder up the middle to record the final out.
Kennewick went on to win a second game later in the evening, beating Bremerton 15-2 for the region’s final state berth.
Lakeside enters the state tournament with a 22-18 record, winning three straight and eight of its last 10.
The team started the summer season 0-6 and struggled to find consistency until a couple of weeks ago.
“The regular season doesn’t really matter,” Lawhead said. “There’s a lot of teams that struggle during the regular season, like Skyline, that go to state. It’s all about that momentum and that mentality you take into the playoffs.”
Lakeside begins the state tournament at noon, Wednesday against the Spokane Bandits. The other six teams in the double-elimination state tournament include the Kennewick Bandits, Twin City Titans, Yakima Beetles, Longview, Yakima Valley and Centralia.
For updated tournament results check the Washington American Legion website.
Kennewick – 1 0 2 0 2 0 0 1 1 — 7 13 1
Lakeside – 2 0 0 0 3 0 1 4 x — 10 11 3
(Lakeside) Lawhead, Gale (7), Sampson (8) and Altchech. (Kennwick) Jackson, McKimmis (7), Marston (8) and Morfin. WP – Sampson. LP – Marston. Highlights: (L) Paulson 3-4, HR, 4 RBI, 3 R; Rogers 2-3, 3B, RBI; Dilley 2-3, 2 RBI. (KB) Mendenhall 3-4, 2 RBI; O’Neil 2-4, 2 2B, RBI.