Bearcats Bats, Jones Gem Blow Out Spudders


RIDGEFIELD — The W.F. West baseball decided it had had enough dramatics and theatrics at home in the first round of the district tournament, and left them back in Lewis County.

Instead, they came south Wednesday and turned Ridgefield’s ballpark into a house of horrors for the Spudders, dominating their way to a 9-0 win in the semifinals of the 2A District 4 tournament.

“That was fun,” WFW coach Jesse Elam said. “That was a little bit easier on my nerves than last night.”

A night after it took the Bearcats (16-6, 10-2 2A EvCo) seven innings to break out offensively in their walk-off win over Mark Morris, W.F. West got the bats going early, with Deacon Meller singling to lead off the bottom of the first, getting to third on a double by Gavin Fugate, and coming home on a ground ball by Braden Jones, diving acrobatically around a tag at the plate to score.

Another run came home before the Spudders could register their first out of the game, and W.F. West didn’t exactly slow down from there.

“That’s Bearcat Baseball,” Elam said. “That’s what we’re about right there. Just energy and effort, the way that we hustled, taking extra bases, stealing, doing everything, and putting pressure on. That’s what we try to do, we try to put pressure on teams.”

The pressure paid off. W.F. West chased Ridgefield’s starter after an inning and went to work against a bullpen that couldn’t locate its fastball. Sitting on the soft stuff, the Bearcats soon were mashing doubles all over the place — Fugate finished with two, while Meller and Lane Sahlin both had one.

W.F. West finished with 11 hits, led by Meller’s 3-for-4 night at the top of the lineup, complete with two runs scored and two more driven in.

“He’s our spark plug,” Elam said. “He’s our lead-off guy, and I think he’s the most energetic guy we have on our team. He’s flying everywhere, and he’s always trying to get extra bases.”

Fugate, Sahlin, and Evan Stajduhar — Tuesday’s hero — all added two-hit games.

The Bearcats put runs up on the board in five of the six frames they came to the plate, nearly ending it in the fifth when Fugate came to bat with two in scoring position and drilled a ball down the third-base line, but it found a glove to keep it going.

But with the way Braden Jones was throwing, a few extra outs weren’t hard to come by.

Dealing with a couple of different nagging injuries, Jones had been held off of the mound for much of the season, and Wednesday was just his third outing of the spring. But while W.F. West’s hitters were feasting on offspeed pitches all night long, Ridgefield’s had no clue what to do with Jones’ changeup, and kept the Spudders off balance into the fifth inning, allowing just five hits and two walks.

“Their guy was missing his spots a bit early, and we were sitting on his soft stuff, because we knew that was what he could throw for a strike,” Elam said. “Braden was throwing all three pitches for strikes. That’s what makes it really tough on hitters, is when he can spot his fastball, then come in with the changeup and curveball.”

Jones left the game after the Spudders loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the sixth inning, but Riggs Westlund — making his second relief appearance in as many days — got a strikeout to keep the shutout intact. 

Through his three outings this spring, Jones has yet to allow a run.

“We kind of eased him back in, and this is what we expect out of him,” Elam said. “He pounds the zone, he throws strikes, makes guys put the ball in play, and the defense made plays behind him.”

Westlund worked a clean seventh inning to complete the shutout; three of his four outs came via punchout.

W.F. West will get a day to rest before coming back to Ridgefield, but the foe they’ll see in Friday’s district title game won’t be some new face from the south. Instead, the Bearcats will get one more crack at 2A EvCo rival Tumwater, who took the regular-season series decisively, winning 10-0, 5-2, and 8-3.