CASTLE ROCK — After attacking the back-to-back defending 1A District 4 champion La Center for four runs early, the Tenino baseball team’s bats went quiet in the final six innings in a 5-4 loss to the Wildcats in the district semifinals Tuesday afternoon.
The Beavers (17-5) struck for four in the top of the first inning, jumping on Wildcat ace — and Oregon State commit — Justin Fuller and taking advantage of some La Center miscues, leading 4-1 for most of the middle innings.
But after Fuller was pulled in the second inning, Wildcat reliever Austin Aseph kept the Beaver bats at bay, holding Tenino to just one hit the rest of the way.
Though Tenino senior Brody Noonan had perhaps his best outing of the season so far, going 4 1/3 innings and striking out seven with just two walks, the hurler couldn’t keep the potent Wildcat bats at bay forever.
In the sixth, the Wildcats loaded the bases on three straight free passes, and Smith Stimmel hit a bases-clearing double to score three for the Wildcats and tie the game.
Jack Burkhardt stepped in to limit more damage, but gave up a single that scored what would turn out to be the game-winner for La Center with two outs.
“It was a tough one,” Tenino coach Ryan Schlesser said. “We just struggled sleepwalking through the middle innings. We jumped on their ace and we got to their next guy, I thought we were in pretty good shape. We just struggled at the dish, our approach wasn’t very good today.”
Aseph allowed just one hit, and went 1-2-3 in each of his six innings pitched. The Wildcats also took advantage of three double plays in the final six innings, which killed Tenino’s momentum on the bases when they got a runner on.
“La Center is legit, they’re really good, and (Aseph) is no slouch either, he’s solid,” Schlesser said. “We swung at a lot of behind the count curveballs, he did a good job of mixing those in and we didn’t adjust.”
At the plate, Will Feltus led off the game with a double and scored a run, and Brody Noonan knocked in a run on a single and scored on a wild pitch in the first inning. Austin Gonia had the only other hit for the Beavers in the sixth.
With an opportunity for a district title off the table, the Beavers will play for their season on Friday in a loser-out, winner-to-state matchup against Seton Catholic back at Castle Rock. If the Beavers win, they would advance to the district third-place game with a regional state berth locked up. A loss would end their season one win shy of the regional round for the second straight season.
“We have to play seven innings,” Schlesser said. “That’s the biggest thing, we have to be here and mentally focused for all seven innings, no matter what.”