By The Chronicle staff
After two years without a state tournament, and a year away in 2019, the W.F. West baseball team is back in the 2A state semifinals after defeating back-to-back opponents at Foss High School in Tacoma on Saturday.
W.F. West (18-7) returns to Yakima for the first time since 2018, when it took third.
The Bearcats will advance to play league rival and 2A Evergreen Conference champion Tumwater, the No. 4 seed, in the semifinals.
The 2A regional games at Foss were full of upsets. The No. 9 Bearcats knocked off No. 8 Anacortes in the first round, while No. 16 White River upset No. 1 seed North Kitsap in the other first-round game.
Bearcat coach Bryan Bullock pointed out that seeding baseball teams is a tough proposition, given the nature of the game.
“I don’t think that they were necessarily seeded wrong, but that’s the way baseball is,” Bullock said. “There’s not a lot of crossover games played from different districts, so I think what showed is that our district this year is really tough.”
Against Anacortes, the Bearcats started fast and never looked back in a 14-2 demolition of the Seahawks. Logan Moore pitched a strong five innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits and three walks, but striking out seven. Jeron Martin relieved him for scoreless innings with three punchouts.
At the plate, Brock Bunker went a perfect 4 for 4 with four runs scored, and Braden Jones knocked in 4 RBIs with two runs scored on a 2 for 4 line. Moore added a 3 for 5 line at the plate with three runs scored and a trio of RBIs.
The offense has been up and down throughout the season, Bullock said, but his players followed the game plan against Anacortes — and pitcher Staley Moore — and it paid off. Moore had only walked 15 batters all season heading into regionals.
“We knew they were going to be around the plate,” he said. “We were wanting to be aggressive and the kids really bought into it. They had a lot of confidence and we really swung the bats like we were capable of the first game.”
Then in the quarterfinals — after No. 16 White River upset No. 1 North Kitsap in the first round, 5-1 — the Bearcats started quickly again and held on for a 7-6 victory to punch their ticket to the final site in Yakima.
Jones pitched 4 ⅔ innings, allowing four runs — none earned — on six hits with three strikeouts. He also made a big defensive play in the fifth inning, after moving to second base when he was replaced on the mound by Jeron Martin.
“The very first pitch Martin throws, the kid hits a hard shot and he makes a SportsCenter-worthy diving play and throws the kid out,” Bullock said. “It saved a run.”
Hunter Lutman came out of the pen to record the save in the seventh inning, allowing just one hit and striking out three.
Bunker again had a strong game, batting 3 for 5 with a run scored, and Deacon Meller and Ross Kelley each knocked in runs.
The Bearcats face the Thunderbirds at 1 p.m. on Friday at Yakima County Stadium. W.F. West lost all three games to Tumwater during the regular season: 6-2, 8-0 and 7-1.
“We faced the heart of their pitching, and we know that they’ve got their D1 arms and they’re really solid defensively behind them,” Bullock said. “They have really good players, and in those three games we kind of saw, hopefully, what’s the best of Tumwater, so we know what we’ve got to do to play with them.”
Both teams play again on Saturday, in either the third-place game or the state championship.
“We can go over there free and loose and know we’re going to play a good team, but we’re going to go over there and hopefully play our best baseball this season,” Bullock said.