Montesano took an early lead and starting pitcher Ben Wills made it stick as the Bulldogs won the Class 1A District IV baseball title with a 6-0 victory over Hoquiam on Saturday at Olympic Stadium.
Monte (21-2 overall), which came into the title game riding a 15-game win streak, got an early jump on Hoquiam starter Payton Quintanilla, who was pitching on three-days rest. Monte opened the game with four straight base hits, including an RBI single from center fielder Teegan Zillyett followed by a run-scoring double off the bat of Evan Bates to take a 2-0 lead.
The Bulldogs extended their lead when Bates stole home on a delayed double steal to stake Wills to a 3-0 lead before he faced a batter.
“I told these guys, ‘Beating anybody, especially a really good Hoquiam team, four times in a season is difficult,’” Monte head coach Mike Osgood said. “So what we had to do today (was) jump on them early, set the tone early and give Ben some confidence and momentum out there and we did that. That first inning was all we could have asked for.”
Wills did the rest. The hard-throwing junior right-hander was sharp early on, allowing no hits while striking out five Grizzlies through the first three innings.
“I feel like I always pitch better when we are up (on the scoreboard),” Wills said of the early run-support. “It’s less stressful, and it’s really nice to know that whatever I do, my batters are going to back me up and give me some runs to work with.”
Monte’s offense was at it again in the top of the third. Hoquiam reliever Michael Jump walked Zillyett to lead off the inning, and Zillyett was moved to second on a Bates single.
Bulldogs senior Payson Parker stepped up and promptly drove the first pitch he saw to the right-center field gap, scoring Zillyett and Bates with a bases-clearing triple to make it a 5-0 ballgame.
But Jump struck out Shaydon Farmer, got Wills on an infield pop-up and struck out Carter Olson looking to prevent any further damage.
Hoquiam (14-8) broke through against Wills in the bottom of the fourth when Troy McMinn ended Wills’ no-hit bid with a one-out triple. But Wills struck out Kyle Larsen and Joel Emery to keep the Grizzlies scoreless.
Hoquiam threatened again an inning later when Quintanilla strode to the plate with two out and two on.
But in a moment that typified the way the game was playing out for the Grizzlies, Quintanilla chopped Wills’ full-count pitch into the dirt just in front of home plate and was called out for offensive interference after contacting the ball while running toward first base.
That was all for Hoquiam’s offense, as Wills set down the final six Grizzlies batters, striking out the side in the seventh, to give Monte its first district title since 2012.
“I just felt like I had good control, and I was just trying to put it in a spot where I’d get a ground ball or strike them out. And that’s what happened,” Wills said.
Hoquiam head coach Steve Jump said the Bulldogs’ ability to score early put his team on its heels.
“When they got that early lead, it kind of caught us by surprise,” he said. “Montesano is a good team and its hard to come back from a few runs down like that. … I thought Wills pitched lights-out. He got ahead of us, he threw hard and has good off-speed (pitches). … I thought he got tougher with guys on base, and that’s the sign of a good pitcher.”
Jump added he felt his offense was too late in making the necessary adjustments to be successful against a quality pitcher such as Wills.
“I thought we didn’t make any adjustments at the plate as far as putting the ball in play,” he said. “We were loading late and he was just throwing it by us. … Troy McMinn went up there with confidence and made adjustments at the plate and I can’t say that about everybody tonight.”
The win was special particularly for Montesano’s seniors, who haven’t won a district title in their prep careers.
“It feels great to win a district championship. It’s the first one for me at least,” Zillyett said. “It gives us a lot of confidence going into the state tournament.”
Both teams now set their sights on the Class 1A state tournament, with the regional round scheduled to begin Saturday. Monte will face College Place (13-6) at 1 p.m. at Castle Rock High School. Hoquiam takes on Chelan (18-2) at 10 a.m. at Franklin Pierce High School.
Both coaches are looking forward to the opportunity of competing at state.
“We would have loved to win tonight, but we have at least one more week of baseball and we’re two wins away from the final four,” coach Jump said.
“We said this year we really thought we had the team to win districts,” Osgood said. “It’s been a great year, a great ride and whatever happens in the state tournament, it’s been a real special year so far.”
Montesano 302 000 1 — 6 9 2
Hoquiam 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
WP — Wills (7 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 14 K); LP — Quintanilla (2 IP, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 H, K, 2 BB)
Top Players: Montesano — Zillyett (2-3, 2 R, 2 RBI); Plato (2-3, 2B, 3B); Aaron Lano (2-3, R), Bates (2-4, 2B, 2 R, RBI); Parker (1-3, 3B, 2 RBI). Hoquiam — McMinn (1-3, 3B); Jump (1-2).