Regional Roundup: Fighting for a Spot in the Final Four


Four local teams are still in the hunt for a final four berth.

The regional round of the state baseball playoffs are scheduled for Saturday, with W.F. West, Tumwater, Napavine and Toledo all trying to come out on top in their four-team pods. Here’s a breakdown of who, where and when each team is playing, and what they’ll need to do to extend their season another week.

2A Baseball

With district tournaments firmly in the rearview mirror, two local 2A teams are gearing up to play in the regional round of the state playoffs, with W.F. West earning the ninth overall seed and Tumwater earning the fourth. 

After battling past Mark Morris in an elimination winner-to-regional contest in 11 innings in their district finale, the Bearcats were seeded just outside the top-eight and will match up with Anacortes in the first round at Foss High School in Tacoma on Saturday at 10 a.m. 

With wins over No. 5 Ephrata, Selah, and a sweep of No. 12 Shelton this season, the Bearcats are primed to make another run at a coveted state championship. 

“We wanted to get in the state tournament, wherever we got placed we were going to be excited to be in,” Bearcats coach Bryan Bullock said. “Are there eight teams better than us? I would say no, but it's our job to prove we’re a top four team.”

The Bearcats are no strangers to the state playoffs, having made them each of the last five seasons in which they have held the state tournament. They last won a championship in 2013. 

Though they boasted a strong resume and likely could have been moved up a couple spots, Bullock says he was pleased with the bracket and its prioritization of new matchups. 

“We have an opportunity to see new teams that we haven’t seen. It balances out the brackets,” Bullock said. 

That team would be Anacortes, a deep squad with two strong arms that finished 12-5 in league play and beat No. 3 Ellensburg in March and No. 6 Lynden in April. 

W.F. West has previously seen the Seahawks in the state semifinals in 2017 and in non-league play in 2018, and Bullock was quick to point out their strengths and experienced staff. 

“They run a good program and have good tradition,” Bullock said. “They have two really good pitchers in Staely Moore and Jacob Hayes. Both have some really good numbers on the season, we know we’re going to face a good pitching staff. When you get into the state tournament you’re going to face good competition, their losses are against really good teams.”

The Bearcats are no stranger to ace-level arm talent, having gone up against the likes of Selah’s Carter Seely, Tumwater’s Ryan Orr, Blake Smith, and Jordan Hanson, and Rochester’s Braden Hartley. 

Bullock said both Seahawk pitchers are incredibly accurate, with Moore striking out 51 batters on the season with 15 walks, and Hayes throwing 43 strikeouts and walking just 17. 

Unlocking that offense will be key for a Bearcats squad that has struggled to find consistency at times this year. 

“We’re definitely battle-tested and hopefully that will pay off in a tight contest in the state tournament,” Bullock said. “The kids have always risen to the challenge this season, I’m hoping that we’ll have a good week of practice and put forth our best foot Saturday.”

If W.F. West gets past Anacortes in the first round at 10 a.m., they will move on to face the winner of No. 1 North Kitsap and No. 16 White River immediately after. 

Elsewhere in 2A, No. 4 Tumwater will take on No. 13 Shadle Park at W.F. West High School. The Thunderbirds lost in the district championship to No. 2 Columbia River after a 6-run sixth inning for the Rapids, but earned a high-enough seed to play nearby and hope to earn a final four spot. 

If the T-Birds can get past Shadle Park, they will take on the winner of No. 5 Ephrata and No. 12 Fife. 

2B Baseball

A miraculous run through the 2B District 4 tournament saw the Napavine baseball team earn the No. 4 overall seed in the regional round of the state playoffs, where it will host No. 13 Colfax in the first round. Across the mountains, No. 14 Toledo — after beating No. 16 Ilwaco in the district fifth-place game — will play No. 3 Jenkins (Chewelah) in Spokane on Saturday. 

Winning a district championship over No. 1 Toutle Lake had a positive effect on the Tigers’ seeding. They rocketed up to No. 4 overall after finishing with the sixth-best record in the Central 2B League. 

“I was pretty shocked when we got it,” Tigers coach Brian Demarest said. “It’s one of those things, if you’re able to win the district championship you’re a pretty good team. I was really surprised and happy with it. Now I don’t have to monitor hotels and all that.”

Napavine has earned the luxury of playing close to home, where they will host the Bulldogs at Adna High School on Saturday, a team that they already played and defeated this season in Kittitas during spring break.  

That doubleheader, which saw the Tigers pack their bags and play games against a strong Kittitas squad and these same Bulldogs, was scheduled to help prepare them for this exact situation. If Napavine were to upend Colfax for a second time this season, they would have to play again Saturday for a spot in the final four. 

Though Demarest wished the Tigers were matching up with a team they hadn’t seen before in the first round, he was happy with the way the bracket was set up. Playing against a team they’ve beaten, he knows the challenges and advantages that can bring. 

“They’re athletic, they have some fast kids. They threw their main pitcher for a couple of innings, a lefty with a fastball and good breaking stuff,” Bullock said. “He’s going to give us a challenge. They’re really well-coached, they’re on the young side, but they’re a good team.

“It’s a tricky maneuver when you’ve already beaten a team, hopefully we can get our kids ready to go and not look past them,” he added.

First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Adna High School between the Tigers and the Bulldogs. The winner plays the winner of the 10 a.m. matchup between No. 12 Cle Elum-Roslyn and No. 5 Northwest Christian (Colbert). 

The Riverhawks finished fifth in the district tournament and third in the C2BL. On paper, you’d think first-year coach Mack Gaul and company wouldn’t be thrilled with the No. 14 seed. 

After defeating Ilwaco, 10-0, in the fifth-place game — and potentially avoiding a No. 16 seed and matchup with No. 1 Toutle Lake that the Fishermen are staring down — Toledo will play a 20-2 Chewelah squad in Spokane at 1 p.m. at Shadle Park High School. 

When Gaul looked over the bracket, the first thing he looked for were teams in District 4. 

“We come from a pretty strong district, so to not have any District 4 opponents in our region, we’re happy about that,” he said. “We’ll take what we’re given and do our best, we gotta play with the cards we’re dealt.” 

The Cougars are led by the strong and precise arm and bat of Zachary Bowman, the back-to-back league MVP, and a lefty on top of that. Jenkins lost just one league game this season, and Bowman was a big part of that. 

“He’s their league MVP, he’s their guy,” Gaul said. “We’ll be ready for him. The Central 2B is loaded with arms — probably the most loaded it's ever been. It will prepare us for regionals. It’s a big thing.”

Having faced the likes of Toutle Lake’s Jackson and Conner Cox, Napavine’s Gavin Parker and Ashton Demarest, and Adna’s Tristan Percival will help an improved Riverhawk squad against a pitcher they haven’t seen yet this season. 

Embracing a one-game-at-a-time mentality, and with a strong cast of seniors that had won 10 combined games through two seasons before this year, Toledo could be poised for a deep run if things fall its way. 

“You never know when your last game is,” Gaul said. “It could be injury, it could be a loss, you never know. That’s the approach that we’re taking, play like it's your last time out there and have some fun. Playing with that loose mentality will only help us down the road.”

The newly-minted C2B Coach of the Year has guided Toledo to the regional round of the state playoffs for the first time since 2016, when it won a state championship. 

Returning to his old stomping grounds, Gaul said it meant the world to get that recognition from his peers as the Hawks head deeper into the postseason. 

“I’m just happy to be back in Toledo,” he said. “We didn’t have the success that we’re having now when I played, that’s what I want to give these kids. To play in state, in the final four, and for a state championship. I can only put them in the right position, they have to execute. It’s a team award, it's our team executing, it's our assistants doing their thing, it’s a team award. 

If the Riverhawks get past Jenkins at 1 p.m. in Shadle Park, they’ll take on the winner of No. 6 Tri-Cities Prep and No. 11 Okanogan later on Saturday.