BELLINGHAM — In the exact same position it was Friday night in the 2A state semifinals, tied at 1-1 heading into the bottom half of seventh inning, Brayden Oram made sure the No. 2 Tumwater baseball team made history for the second straight season, defeating No. 5 Lynden via a walk-off, 2-1, Saturday night at Joe Martin Stadium.
Facing an 0-2 count with the winning run on second base, Oram caught the very tip of the ball on his swing, sending the ball twirling through the air down the left field line.
When it finally landed, just a few feet fair, Andrew Collins was already getting set to slide into home plate for the winning score, helping the Thunderbirds to their second straight 2A state championship.
“I had two strikes on me and I was looking for a curveball,” Oram said of the game-winning hit. “I wasn’t looking for a home run, just for a base hit. After I hit it I looked and thought it was going to be foul, then I saw the turf come up and thought, ‘Wow I just won it. That was special.’”
Oram’s walk-off is Tumwater’s second in as many days after Kyler Collier hit the game-winning sacrifice fly in a 2-1 win over No. 3 W.F. West in the semifinals on Friday. Tumwater has had a knack over the last two seasons in late games, with Ryan Orr hitting the walk-off base hit last year to defeat Columbia River for the T-Birds’ very first state championship.
Saturday night, Tumwater picked up its second state title as a program, and repeated as state champions.
“We made history,” Tumwater coach Lyle Overbay said. “We made history last year and at the beginning of the season there were questions about us. I told the guys, ‘We’re just as good, we might not have dominant pitching but we have good pitching and we have better more experienced hitters, and we’re a better defense. We’re right there.’ We started believing it and worked all offseason for this. It showed tonight.”
The Thunderbirds were in an all-too-familiar pitching duel once again, with the wind doing batters no favors, and Trenton Gaither tossing a gem on the mound.
Gaither pitched a complete game, letting in just one run in the third on one hit and five walks with eight strikeouts.
“We felt like it was going to be a close game coming in,” Overbay said. “We made the plays when we needed to and (Gaither) pitched an awesome game.”
At the dish, the Thunderbirds did just enough to tie it up in the fourth after the early whole, with Oram reaching on a single and stealing both second and third base before getting knocked in by Collier to tie it up.
After that, the teams traded several scoreless innings, with Gaither escaping a few jams, before the Thunderbirds rallied once again in the seventh inning.
Nine-hole hitter Landon Roy drew a leadoff walk, and with the top of the Tumwater order due up next, the T-Birds felt confident they could drive the winning run home.
“That’s what good teams do,” Overbay said. “They’ve been doing that all year, they’ve found ways. They’re very unselfish, they’ll take that walk or lay that bunt down. We’ve done that real well and it paid off.”
A bunt moved Collins, who pinch ran for Roy, to second, then the Lions chose to intentionally walk Alex Overbay.
Eddie Marson lined out on a gorgeous diving grab from Lynden’s shortstop, before Oram hit the game-winning single with two strikes in the next at-bat.
“It’s special, two years in a row, it’s something I will always remember,” Oram said. “My teammates and the people that got us here and made this happen, it’s really special. It's a memorable moment that will last a lifetime.”