Bearcats pull away late to sweep Warriors


ROCHESTER — Just one day after a low-scoring, extra-inning thriller, W.F. West and Rochester seemed to be in the midst of another similar matchup.

Through four innings at Rochester on Tuesday, the Bearcats and Warriors were tied at one.

The Bearcats quickly flipped the script in the rematch, however, scoring three in the fifth and five in the sixth to pull away and sweep the Warriors.

“We had three or four guys in a row that hit hard ground balls and line drives,” W.F. West coach Jesse Elam said. “And I think that kind of sparked us.”

Up to that point, Rochester’s Tyler Hudson had been stellar on the mound, allowing just one run, but Rochester coach Brad Quarnstrom noted that as he started to tire and get deep into his pitch count, the Bearcats were able to put the bat on the ball more.

The Rochester (1-4, 0-2 2A EvCo) defense did little to help Hudson out, committing six errors on the day. Of the nine runs the Bearcats scored, just five of them were charged to Hudson and Ben Johnson, who came on in relief in the sixth.

Quarnstrom was particularly disappointed with the way several bloopers and fly balls found their way onto the outfield grass.

“I get it, this blue sky is not something we get all the time and the wind has an impact on the ball,” Quarnstrom said. “But if we’re gonna win baseball games, we gotta find a way to catch the ball when it’s in the air.”

Connor Coleman did more than enough to earn the win on the bump for the Bearcats (6-1, 2-0 2A EvCo), allowing just three hits and one run while walking one across five innings of work. 

“He looked great again,” Elam said. “When he is cool and composed, he is tough to beat.”

At the plate, Braden Jones went 3 for 5 with an RBI and two runs scored, Weston Potter, Grady Westlund, and Ross Kelley each drove in multiple runs and tallied multiple hits, and Deacon Meller also went 2 for 3.

The Warriors struggled to put the ball in play against Coleman, who racked up nine strikeouts. Jones struck out the side in the seventh, giving the Bearcats a total of 12 strikeouts on the day.

It’s another thing that has stuck out to Quarnstrom over the first few weeks of the season, and he says it's something that will need to improve quickly.

“We have to decrease the strikeout numbers,” Quarnstrom said. “We just gotta find a way to put the ball in play.”

It’s W.F. West’s sixth win in the last 10 days, the final victory in a seven-game sprint to open the season. The Bearcats will now have a week off before their next matchup, a league home-and-home against Black Hills, starting on Tuesday in Tumwater.

“We’re gonna take a break and hopefully recover a little bit and be ready to go next week,” Elam said.

The Warriors are also off until next week, but they’ll head to Elma on Wednesday, March 27, and host Yelm on Friday in a pair of non-league matchups.