Prep baseball: Tumwater secures share of EvCo title with narrow win


TUMWATER — Luke Houk had his back against the wall numerous times in just two-plus innings on Wednesday night.

The Tumwater High School baseball team’s reliever had already gotten out of a bases loaded jam and walked the leadoff batter in the top of the seventh inning.

He needed an in-game breather.

“Just wanted to come out and say ‘Hey, deep breath,’” Thunderbirds head coach Lyle Overbay said. “At the end of the day, let’s get an out. It was no big deal that he just walked a guy; I wanted him to know that.”

Houk took a deep breath and retired the final three batters in seamless fashion to finish off a 2-1 Evergreen Conference triumph over W.F. West and clinch at least a share of the league title once again.

“That was tough, but I just had to flush it and get back to throwing strikes the best I could,” Houk said. “Normally I’m a bit more on than that, but the pressure of this game was huge. That was getting to me a little bit.”

The two-time defending Class 2A state champions are in the driver’s seat for a top seed in the District 4 tournament. If Tumwater holds on to be the No. 1 EvCo team, it will play the fourth team from the Greater St. Helens league in the quarterfinals on May 7.

There are five teams from the GSHL that are battling for the last two playoff spots.

“We need to keep going,” Overbay said. “We’re getting closer and closer. We’ve got the team. One-through-12, it makes my job easier.”

It was not the cleanest game by the Thunderbirds. They succumbed to four errors, both Houk and starter Derek Thompson combined for eight walks and Thompson threw a pair of wild pitches. Their offense mustered two hits.

None of that mattered.

Houk came in with two runners on base in the top of the fifth and loaded the bases with a two-out walk. Three pitches later, the right-hander struck out Hayden Rooney to keep the game tied at one.

“I just try to think about my team, how good they are and how they’ve got my back,” Houk said.

Luke Overbay gave Tumwater (13-3, 10-0 EvCo) a 2-1 cushion with an RBI single that scored Eddie Marson, who reached on a fielder’s choice, advanced to second via a fielder’s choice and took third on a wild pitch.

Since the calendar flipped to April, Luke Overbay has registered a hit in five of the seven games with 11 runs batted in.

“All my guys, they’re always backing me up,” he said. “That always brought me up and made me feel better.”

Marson made the biggest play of the game in the sixth, tagging Deacon Meller trying to steal second. The shortstop, who also notched a pair of stolen bases, did the same thing in the first frame.

Coach Overbay called Marson “special.”

“That was probably the moment,” Coach Overbay added. “He goes, we go. They thrive on what he does.”

W.F. West (11-4, 6-2) stranded at least one runner in scoring position over the last six innings. It left the bases full twice and failed to generate the timely hit.

It marks the third straight loss to the T-Birds by head coach Jesse Elam’s squad.

“Some days, you struggle and today happened to be one of those days,” Elam said. “It was a fairly frustrating day.”

Both sides scored their opening runs on errors, the Bearcats in the second and Tumwater in the first. Meller recorded two hits for W.F. West and reached base in all four of his at-bats while Roy recorded a hit for the Thunderbirds.

The Bearcats still have four league games left in the regular season and Elam believes the two-game losing streak won’t extend beyond the current number. They face North Thurston on Friday.

“That was the message,” Elam said. “Come back and compete our butts off.”

Tumwater will play a non-league contest versus Shelton, then take a week off. Luke Overbay feels the break might be coming at a good time.

“We got a lot of guys that pitched a lot of pitches,” he said. “We can work on things on the field and in the birdcage.”