Prep baseball: Rochester triumphs in nail-biter to secure playoff berth


For the Rochester High School baseball team, it is a case of Déjà vu.

In needing a spot in the Class 2A District 4 tournament last spring, it had to sweep Aberdeen in the final two games of the regular season. This year, the Warriors needed to win both games against Centralia to solidify their top-four spot.

“We’ve been here and done this,” Rochester head coach Brad Quarnstrom said. “Taking care of business when they needed to.”

They did just that.

Ignited by timely hits and critical base running plays and a final bounce to go its way, Rochester nudged by Centralia 6-5 on Wednesday night at Wheeler Field to clinch a spot in the district tournament for the second straight year.

“At that point, we were trying to see pitches (and) have good at-bats,” Warriors starting pitcher Mason Ubias said. “Job is not finished. Got to go after that third place spot.”

The four teams from the Evergreen Conference are now official. Tumwater and W.F. West will be the top-two seeds from the league while Shelton and Rochester (9-7, 5-5 EvCo) will jostle for third and fourth seeds.

Shelton is done with league games while Rochester has two to play against Aberdeen. If the Warriors take two from the Bobcats, both will be at 7-5 in the EvCo.

The tiebreaker?

A non-league contest on Saturday afternoon between the Highclimbers and Warriors that will determine who gets the three seed and who drops to the four seed to play a pigtail elimination game to get into the quarterfinals.

“A hundred percent,” Ubias said when asked if Rochester will treat Saturday like a playoff game. “We can hit both of (their pitchers). It is (about) playing as a team.”

The final half-inning was a barn-burner.

Centralia (6-10, 3-7) loaded the bases on three straight walks and Landen Jenkins scored on an error by Rochester catcher Hayden Pietras. That put the tying run on second base.

After Tyler Huston notched a strikeout, he induced a groundout to Henry Gramelspacher at third base who placed a tag on Tucker Weaver.

Although the base umpire initially called Weaver safe, the home plate umpire joined in and after a quick decision, changed the call to end the game.

“We found a way,” Quarnstrom said. “Being in close games like that is what hopefully prepares us for another close game down the road.”

The Tigers left two runners on base in the last two frames. Jon Leedy cut a four-run deficit in half with a two-run single in the sixth. Two batters later, Leedy was picked off second base to end the threat.

“We finally started (to) hunt our pitch and making them throw strikes,” Centralia head coach Jake LeDuc said. “They got some breaks that we didn’t get. I love this game, but I also hate this game. That’s baseball.”

Neither side was clean defensively – 10 total errors – but Weaver and Ubias danced their way out of several jams.

Ubias stranded six on base and overcame three errors from his defense to keep the contest tied. The right-hander finished with eight strikeouts in over five innings pitched.

He suffered a concussion early in the season and has worked his way back to form. He regained the spot as the No. 2 pitcher for Rochester with several stellar starts.

“My goal is to fill up the zone the best I could,” Ubias. “I found my rhythm. I rebuilt that chip on my shoulder and I’ve been rolling since.”

Weaver got out of a bases loaded jam and left seven on base, wiggling his way out of six walks in over four innings.

“Honestly, the last two starts, he gave us a chance to win,” LeDuc said.

Rochester took the lead for good on a bloop two-run single off the bat of Tate Quarnstrom. It added two more in the fifth on an error and wild pitch and pushed across the final run on an RBI base hit from Colton Weiss.

Ubias reached base four times and Pietras recorded two stolen bases for the Warriors. Marcus Miller reached base twice with a stolen base for Centralia.

“A win is a win, it does not matter how pretty or ugly it is,” Coach Quarnstrom said.

The Tigers were officially eliminated from the playoffs as they end the league slate with W.F. West next week.

“To put ourselves in this position, it is a letdown, but our kids battled their butts off today,” LeDuc said.