SOUTH BEND — Toledo baseball woke up Saturday morning not knowing if its season would end. Now the Riverhawks will go to sleep Saturday night knowing they’ve secured a spot in the 2B regional playoffs.
Toledo dominated Wahkiakum, 7-2, in a loser-out, district opener in the morning, then struck early against Ilwaco and held off the Fishermen’s mid-inning rally for a 9-6 victory. Toledo’s back-to-back wins sends the Riverhawks to the district semifinals and gives them an automatic bid to the regional round of state.
“It feels great,” Toledo first-year coach Mack Gaul said. “We had some guys step up today.”
One of those was sophomore pitcher Caiden Schultz, who hit two home runs on the day and dealt against the Mules in the loser-out Game 1. Schultz struck out seven while allowing just one earned run on three hits and four walks to earn the win on the mound.
He also helped his own cause, sending a two-run homer over the centerfield fence to put the Riverhawks up 3-0 in the bottom of the first.
“It did play a factor in our game, but as a team we did really good,” Schultz said. “It wasn’t just home runs. We did really good.”
From then on, Toledo was off to the races, pulling out to a 7-1 lead and cruising the rest of the way en route to a 7-2 win. That moved the Riverhawks into the district quarterfinals and the double-elimination portion of the bracket.
Conor Gilreath and Justin Filla each went 2 for 4 at the plate, with Gilreath scoring twice and knocking in a run, while Schultz finished 1 for 2 with two runs, two RBIs and two walks.
Against Ilwaco later that afternoon, the Riverhawks came out the gates blasting, spearheaded by Gilreath’s monstrous, three-run blast beyond the left field fence to help Toledo take a 4-0 lead in the top of the first.
Schultz crushed his second homer of the day in the second inning, a two-run shot over left field to push the Riverhawks’ lead to 7-0.
Ilwaco wasn’t going away quietly, however, as the Fishermen plated two runs in the bottom of the second before scoring four more in the third to cut Toledo’s lead to 7-6.
“Short-term memory in baseball,” Gaul said. “You have to flush the bad real quick and reset.”
The Riverhawks did just that, holding the Fishermen scoreless the final four innings while scoring two more insurance runs along the way before completing a 9-6 victory.
Rogan Stanley entered in relief against Ilwaco in the fifth inning with the Riverhawks holding an 8-6 lead. He tossed the final three innings, allowing zero runs with two hits and no walks while fanning three batters.
“We had a guy finish out that last game who we weren’t sure was even gonna play — Rogan Stanley — (was injured in basketball) and he manned up to finish that second game strong for us,” Gaul said.
Gilreath led the offensive attack, going 2 for 4 with four RBIs and two runs. Schultz was 1 for 3 with two RBIs and a run and Rayder Stemkoski drove in a run while going 2 for 4.
It was a rewarding day for Toledo — the Central 2B League’s No. 3 seed — which made sure it will play at least three more games this season, and hopefully many more.
“It’s one of the best feelings in the world,” Schultz said of advancing to regionals. “We woke up with intensity and energy, and feeling like we were ready to win today — and that’s exactly what we did.”
Toledo moves on to face C2BL foe Toutle Lake in the district semifinals at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, at Lower Columbia College.