An impressive push to the playoffs continued for the Eastlake baseball team Monday afternoon.
The Wolves, who ended the first half of the season with a 4-6 record and were near the bottom of the KingCo 4A, defeated second-place Juanita 2-1 to earn their seventh win in their last nine tries.
“Get the Eastlake boys on the field late in the season, and good things tend to happen,” head coach J.T. D’Amico said. “We are playing good right now.”
The victory moved Eastlake to 11-8 and into a tie with Inglemoor for the sixth and final KingCo playoff berth, with one regular-season game remaining. Eastlake faced first-place Redmond, and Inglemoor faced third-place Lake Washington on Wednesday. Results for both games occurred after Reporter deadline. A number of scenarios could play out depending on Wednesday’s outcomes — from Eastlake not making the playoffs, to a play-in game with Inglemoor, or a playoff seed anywhere between No. 4 and No. 6.
“Every year, the KingCo conference is a total crapshoot,” D’Amico said. “I don’t know with one game remaining in the season if there’s been this much chance for a not-in, a six or a two — for everybody not just us.”
The Wolves kept their post-season dreams alive on Monday behind a strong pitching performance from junior Brennan Menninger and a huge blast off the bat of senior Aaron Race.
Menninger went a complete seven innings, scattering five hits along with three strikeouts and an unearned run.
“It was hot, pretty muggy and I was tired, but I just kept going and plugging away,” Menninger said. “I got help from my defense too.”
Menninger forced 11 ground ball outs, including a nicely turned 6-4-3 double play from shortstop Michael Russo to second baseman Nick Smith in the third inning. He also earned a big strikeout via an off-speed pitch in the top of the second with a runner on third base and two outs.
“He was awesome,” D’Amico said. “At the end of the day, you need heroic performances and we got one.”
Eastlake got only four hits off of Juanita starter Joel Reyes, three of which came in the second inning. Race came through with the largest of those hits, nailing a two-run home run over the left centerfield fence. He turned the first pitch thrown to him, drilling it an estimated 400 feet to score Kelley Rockey, who led off the inning with a single.
“I don’t really know what it was,” Race said. “It just looked like a meatball so I swung at it.”
It was the third home run of the season for Race.
“We’ve been kind of waiting for Race to get going in a big game and there was nothing bigger than today as far as what it meant to our season and chance for at least a play-in game,” D’Amico said.
Eastlake’s run at the postseason is attributed to a young team gaining experience.
“I think we’re living in the moment a lot better right now,” D’Amico said. “We’re not worried about anybody else but our dugout — not who’s on the other side of the fence, just our dugout, and it’s showing.”
The playoffs were a distant dream a month ago, but if the Wolves are fortunate to get in, they are ready to make some noise.
“It would mean a lot,” Race said. “I haven’t been there since sophomore year, so I just want to go in there play two games and go to state and play at Safeco. That would be so sweet.”
Issaquah ends regular season with two wins
Issaquah wrapped up its regular season on Tuesday, defeating Mercer Island 9-3.
Jacob Kemmerer earned the win, going a complete seven innings and improving his record to 5-2. Andy Salmeri led the Eagles at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a grand slam in the third inning. Russell Bair added two RBI and Grant Gellatly was 2-for-4 with a run scored.
Issaquah defeated Newport 8-0 last Friday. Alex DeMarne was nearly flawless, allowing only two hits, while striking out seven over a complete seven innings. Kyle Sutherland had three RBI to lead the Eagles at the plate. Bair, Salmeri, Miles Perkins and Spencer Rogers also contributed RBI hits.
The Eagles ended the regular season with a 10-6 league record and 11-7 overall. Seeding for the league playoffs depended on outcomes from games played Wednesday and Thursday. Issaquah could finish anywhere between No. 2 and No. 5. The KingCo 3A playoffs begin Monday, May 5. Go to www.kingcoathletics.com for more information.
Skyline wins three of four
Skyline moved closer to clinching the KingCo 3A regular season championship over the last week, winning three of four games.
The Spartans earned three wins in three days, downing Liberty 7-1 on April 23, Newport 10-5 on April 24 and Sammamish 5-1 last Friday. Skyline lost 1-0 to Bellevue on Monday, moving its league record to 11-4 with one remaining game against Mercer Island on Wednesday. Results occurred after Reporter deadline. A win would have clinched the regular season league title. A loss and the Spartans would have needed a loss from Newport in one of its two final games to clinch.
Winning Skyline pitchers over the three-game stretch included Blake Fulghum, Adrian Sampson and Anthony Beattie. Several Spartan batters came through in the clutch over the span, including a 2-for-3 2 RBI performance from Ryan Sapp against Liberty and a 4-for-4, four-run effort from Ryan Somers against Newport.