Eagles avoid elimination
Tyler Vanderboegh was forced to change his mindset in a matter of minutes Tuesday afternoon.
The senior pitcher planned on sitting on the bench, cheering on his teammate and friend Jacob Kemmerer during Issaquah’s opening-round, loser-out KingCo 3A playoff game against Mercer Island.
Those plans abruptly changed when Kemmerer’s AP test ran longer than expected and he failed to make the 4 p.m. start at Bellevue’s Bannerwood Park.
“I was starting to get a little nervous around 3:30 and then (at) 3:45 we called him and he was still on I-90, so we changed game plans,” Issaquah head coach Rob Reese said.
Reese turned to Vanderboegh and asked to warm up quickly. The right-hander hopped up off the bench and emphatically answered his team’s call, pitching one of his best games of the season. He went a complete seven innings, allowing only five hits en route to a 5-0 victory.
“I come prepared every game,” Vanderboegh said. “I’m just glad I could pick up my teammates.”
After surrendering two first-inning hits, Vanderboegh clamped down. He retired the next 18 of 19 batters, with only a bloop single sandwiched in between. Mercer Island got two more hits with two outs in the top of the seventh, but Vanderboegh forced his eighth groundball out to preserve the shutout. Perhaps most significant, he didn’t allow a single walk.
“I felt pretty good,” Vanderboegh said. “The curve ball was dropping good and I was for the most part hitting my spots.”
Reese wasn’t surprised at all by Vanderboegh’s effort.
“We have a great pitching staff,” he said. “Jacob’s been our No. 1, so it was his turn to go but (Tyler) stepped in and threw a gem.”
Issaquah’s offense also stepped up big, and struck early.
Senior Russell Bair provided the Eagles a 2-0 lead in the first inning, drilling a two-run double down the left field line. The ball rolled all the way to the fence, scoring junior Brennan Miller and senior Mario Sanelli. Issaquah added on to its lead in the bottom of the fourth via an RBI single from sophomore Spencer Rogers and wild pitch that scored Sanelli. The Eagles added one more insurance run on in the sixth when senior pinch runner Adam Las tagged up at second base on a deep fly ball hit by junior Miles Perkins. Mercer Island right fielder Sean Perryman made a nice diving catch, but he couldn’t recover in time to get the ball back to the infield.
Issaquah’s defense was also key in the victory. The Eagles didn’t surrender an error.
Reese said the defense has played a major role in turning things around the second half of the season. The Eagles started out 4-5 in KingCo 3A, but went 6-3 over the second half of the league season.
“The whole second half, we’ve played great with our defense,” he said. “Our pitching’s been there all year. We lost some games because of our defense, but we’re really starting to come around.”
With the way things have picked up of late, the Eagles are thinking back to last season when they lost five games going into the post-season, only to get hot and win the 3A state title.
“We’re trying not to, but it’s in the back of our minds,” Vanderboegh said. “We’re hoping to get there. With the way we’re playing, there’s no reason we can’t get back to Safeco.”
Issaquah faced Newport yesterday. Results occurred after Reporter deadline. If the Eagles won, they will play for the KingCo championship at 1 p.m., tomorrow against either Skyline or Liberty. If they lost, they will play at 4 p.m. against Skyline or Liberty. All games are at Bannerwood Park in Bellevue.
Skyline opens tourney against Liberty
Skyline, the regular season KingCo 3A champion, played its first league tournament game yesterday against fifth-place Liberty. The Spartans ended their season with a 12-4 league record and 15-5 overall and are ranked No. 4 in the final 3A Washington state poll. Results from yesterday’s game occurred after Reporter deadline. The winner of the Skyline-Liberty game will play for the KingCo 3A championship at 1 p.m. tomorrow against Issaquah or Newport at Bannerwood Park in Bellevue. The loser will play at 4 p.m. Go to www.kingcoathletics.com for updated tournament information.