Tanner Vaughn, in his four years playing baseball with W.F. West, had never pitched against Centralia.
When he finally got the senior night start on Monday he wasn’t about to let the opportunity pass him by.
Vaughn struck out 15 batters and shut out the Tigers for 6 ⅔ innings, leading W.F. West to a 3-0 Evergreen 2A Conference win in Chehalis.
The win meant a season sweep against rival Centralia and kept the Bearcats in a tie with Tumwater atop the EvCo standings with just one league game left on the schedule and the District 4 tournament scheduled for next week.
W.F. West needed the big game out of Vaughn, though coach Bryan Bullock said that type of performance has been the expectation out of the senior and the pitching staff in general.
“We’ve struggled at times to put together some offense, but our pitching has held up their end of the bargain and has kept us in every game we’ve been able to win,” Bullock said. “But it’d be nice to see our offense get going and be able to put up some runs to help our defense and pitching out.”
Vaughn cruised through the first four innings, striking out nine and allowing just two baserunners — one who reached on an error and one hit batter. With two outs in the fifth, though, he gave up a single, walked a batter and gave up an infield single to load the bases, only to escape unscathed with a full-count strikeout.
“His competitiveness on the mound comes out when he gets in those tough situations,” Bullock said. “He just finds a way to bulldog it.”
He pulled the same trick in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a single, a walk, and then a bunt single to load the bases with no outs — only to strike out the next three hitters. He hit the 105-pitch limit while retiring the second batter of the seventh, prompting Bullock to bring in Andrew Stafford to close out the game.
Vaughn shrugged off the one-batter-early exit.
“I knew I was going to have to come out, and I understand, because it’s happened all season,” he explained. “If the pitch count goes up, you should have performed better.”
Centralia coach Adam Riffe was impressed with Vaughn, though he lamented his own team’s issues taking advantage in bases-loaded situations.
“You can’t take anything away from him. He pitched well tonight,” Riffe said. “Offensively, we didn’t make our adjustments, especially in the fifth and sixth. We didn’t take advantage.”
The pitching was also impressive on Centralia’s end, where Cameron Erickson moved out from his usual spot behind the plate and kept W.F. West off balance most of the game. The senior, in what Riffe said was just his second full game pitching, held W.F. West to five hits and one earned run without hitting or walking a batter.
“I think pitching is probably his third position, but he goes out and competes,” Bullock said of Erickson. “He kept us off balance. He had a mixture of pitches and we were having a hard time figuring him out.”
W.F. West’s first two runs came in the second inning, when Vaughn reached base on an error and scored on a suicide squeeze play bunt laid down by Drayson Hilkemeier.
“If he didn’t get it down, I knew I would have been safe,” Vaughn said. “The pitch was up in the zone, but I had a lot of faith in my teammate. I knew he was going to get it down.”
Stafford, who had singled and moved to third on the suicide squeeze, then scored on a wild pitch.
“That’s the stuff we’ve been working on,” Bullock said of the squeeze play. “Offensively, we’ve been struggling a little bit, so we’ve been becoming more of the team that’s going to look to score one or two runs in an inning, instead of three or four, like we’ve been in the past.”
Drew Reynolds knocked the game’s only extra-base hit in the sixth inning, tripling to the left-center field gap and scoring on a single from Brit Lusk and give W.F. West its final 3-0 advantage.
W.F. West (10-1, 10-1 league) plays at Black Hills on Wednesday to wrap its regular-season EvCo slate. Centralia (7-4) hosts Tumwater on Wednesday to finish its own EvCo schedule.
Starter Tony Groninger and reliever Braden Hartley combined for 18 strikeouts as Rochester held off Aberdeen, 7-3, in 11 innings on the road Monday.
Tied 3-3 in the top of the 11th, Cody Morton smacked a bases-clearing shot to left field that was mishandled by the outfielder, giving the Warriors all they would need for the victory.
“Tonight, we were able to get it going,” Rochester coach Brad Quarnstrom said. “It was really about the pitching on both sides. The intensity level was up.”
Groninger struck out nine batters while allowing two earned runs on seven hits in six innings. Hartley came in for the final five frames, striking out nine while allowing just one hit and no earned runs.
“Tony didn’t have his best stuff but it was enough to give us the win,” Quarnstrom said. “Braden came in and mowed guys down.”
Aberdeen starter Eli Brown took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, until Tate Quarnstrom spoiled his day with a single to right field.
Rochester improves to 5-8 and hosts Shelton on Wednesday in a regular-season finale.
Rochester is renaming its baseball field to Heinz-Rotter Field, in honor of Justin Rotter, a Rochester High School math teacher, middle school football coach and assistant baseball coach, who passed away at 44 years old from a heart condition on July 24, 2020.
The field renaming is taking place at 1 p.m. on June 5, with a wiffle-ball game and hamburger and chips. All are welcome to attend, Quarnstrom said.