PLAY BALL: Titus-Will Fell 8-2 to Timberline at Borst Park Sports Complex Thursday Night

The rust was apparent, and expected.

Titus-Will, Centralia’s Junior Legion squad, put on their mitts — for the first time in nearly a year for some players — to take on a Timberline Hax team at Field 6 in the Borst Park Sports Complex Thursday night.

A disastrous five-run first inning sank Titus-Will in an 8-2 loss to Timberline, but for most players it was a blessing just to be able to play. After spring sports were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the thought of playing baseball in June seemed unlikely. But when Lewis County moved into phase three of the state’s reopening plan, it opened up sports competition and gave kids another chance to play this summer.

Centralia High School’s baseball team, which Titus-Will players are from, played one doubleheader this spring before the season was canceled.

“At the start of all this I thought for sure we’d be back for our high school season,” Titus-Will coach and Centralia High School assistant coach Bryan Zurfluh said. “I thought we’d come back in a couple weeks and finish. When that didn’t happen, the summer became even more of a question mark. I wasn’t expecting at this point to get back out here again so that’s what kind of made it fun.”

Thursday’s game against Timberline was more about enjoying the opportunity to play and knocking off rust than being hyper competitive.

Crystian Bean drove in the opening run of the game for Titus-Will in the bottom of the first on an RBI double to the right-center gap that brought home Derek Bearisto, who reached base on a walk.

Titus-Will held onto that lead until the top of the fifth when Timberline exploded for five runs. Two walks followed by an RBI single tied it up at 1-1. An RBI single, two fielder’s choices and a wild pitch brought in four more runs for Timberline. Pitcher Chris Kirner prevented further damage with an inning-ending strikeout.

Titus-Will tacked on its final run of the game when Noah Aliff jetted home from third base as Timberline’s pitcher was winding up to pitch, beating the throw to the plate and sliding in safely in a steal that was reminiscent of Jackie Robinson.

But Timberline notched runs in the sixth and seventh to put the nine-inning game away.

Centralia junior Benito Valencia, who’s been playing with Titus-Will since he was a freshman, said it felt good to get out on the field again. Valencia also plays for Centralia’s Senior League team I-5 Toyota/Mountain Dew, but said this was the first game of the year for the majority of his teammates.

“Some guys don’t have opportunities to play with other teams and get warmed up, so I think it’s that first-time jitters again,” Valencia again.

The team has only practiced for the past two weeks and haven’t even been able to get to the batting cages before today. For most, this was their first time seeing live pitching in quite some time. Zurfluh said he expected the team to have to work out kinks today and was just grateful they could all be on the field together finally.

“It was pretty awesome,” Titus-Will coach Bryan Zurfluh said. “Great day for baseball, and when you miss the whole (high school) season it’s kind of nice to get onto the field.”

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