Beavers fall in state semis to Overlake-Bear Creek in heartbreaker

Tenino gives up 2-1 lead in seventh inning


BELLINGHAM — The Tenino High School baseball team will have to do some soul searching after Overlake-Bear Creek scored two runs in the seventh inning to stun the Beavers 3-2 in a 1A state semifinal matchup on Friday and send fifth-seeded Tenino to the third-place game.

An incensed Tenino head coach Ryan Schlesser berated the home plate umpire after starting pitcher Jack Burkhardt’s 2-2, two-out pitch in the seventh inning scraped catcher Austin Gonia’s glove and hit the home-plate umpire’s gear before flying backward.

Schlesser believed the pitch hit the Growls batter, which would have loaded the bases and extended the game in a 2-2 tie. Instead, the crew ruled the ball did not hit the batter, allowing the game-winning run to score from third. After reviewing the film, Schlesser acknowledged that the pitch in fact did not hit the batter.

“I don’t have any words. At the end of the day, we had a lot of opportunities, but we left them,” Schlesser said. “We wouldn’t have been in that spot if we had taken care of business in other innings.”

Tenino’s two lone runs came in the first frame as the Beavers capitalized on two Growls infield errors on a pair of ground balls, one hit by Kellan Knox and the other by Michael Vassar. Burkhardt retired the first four batters he saw before facing trouble in the second inning. Andrew Kafchinski’s bunt single drove home the Growls’ first run thanks to an error by Burkhardt. 

The Beavers offense faltered after its hot start. Following Vassar’s RBI in the first to make it 2-0, 13 straight batters were retired by Overlake-Bear Creek starter Michael Komola and the Growls defense. Burkhardt and the Beavers defense kept Tenino in front, however, as he retired 13 of the next 14 batters after the Growls cut the lead in half in the second.

“Jack did a phenomenal job. He did everything we asked him to do,” Schlesser said of his junior right-hander. “He did everything he needed to do. He did a hell of a job.”

Tenino had a golden opportunity to break the game open in the seventh as the bottom of the order came through to lead off the frame. Carson Hart and Burkhardt singled, and Will Feltus loaded the bases three batters later with two outs. Cody Strawn drove a ball deep into right field that appeared to have a chance to drop, but Growls right fielder Brendan Winkler ran it down to end the frame.

With Burkhardt on the mound, the Beavers needed three outs to send the team back to the 1A state title game for the first time in 13 years and give them a chance for their first state title in 38 years. Komola led off with a single to bring the tying run to first base, and he advanced to third on a pair of groundouts. Kafchinski grounded to Feltus at shortstop for what could have been the game-sealing out, but his throw to first was errant, scoring the tying run and stunning the Tenino dugout.

On the next at-bat, Winkler lined a ground ball to third baseman Leland White, but Winkler hardly moved out of the batter’s box as he thought the ball had gone foul. White fielded it and threw the ball to Knox at first, but Knox fumbled the ball and could not get his foot back to the bag in time, even with Winkler stumbling out of the box.

With runners at second and third after Winkler stole second, Burkhardt’s pitch struck the home-plate umpire’s chest and behind Gonia. Hank Davidson scored the game-winning run to send the Growls faithful into a frenzy as their team clinched a spot to the 1A state championship game.

Schlesser ran onto the field to debate the call, which was briefly discussed amongst the crew before it was confirmed to end the contest and give the Growls the 3-2 win. Following the deflating loss in which the Beavers failed to get the final out with a 2-1 lead, Tenino (19-7) has a quick turnaround, facing No. 2 seed Cedar Park Christian for third place at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

“I told them that sometimes life is really s****y, and it’s about how you pick yourself up. It is what it is. You can’t control what other people do,” Schlesser said. “You’ve just gotta keep battling. It’s gonna be a tough one tomorrow. We’re gonna have to do a little soul searching.”