Not many pitchers can say they went toe-to-toe with two of the best three teams in the state and dominated offensively and defensively.
When all was said and done, after playing in the best 2A baseball league in the state, Rochester’s Braden Hartley can say he dominated.
On the year, Hartley pitched 42 ⅔ innings over eight starts, with a 1.15 ERA, 78 strikeouts and just seven earned runs. At the plate, the junior hit for a .414 batting average with 22 runs scored, an on-base percentage of .580, a .621 slugging percentage and 10 doubles.
But when it mattered the most — when Hartley was playing against 2A state champion Tumwater or third-place finisher W.F. West in the 2A Evergreen Conference — he played his best ball.
Against those two squads, Hartley threw a combined 12 ⅔ innings, allowing just three hits, no earned runs, and striking out 25 batters. His numbers helped the Warriors sweep the Bearcats in a huge late-season series this spring.
For Hartley, there was just something different about those games.
“They’re the top dogs in our league. It amps up the feel of the game,” he said. “It makes you really compete.”
After a tough start to the season that saw the Warriors drop a few series that they could have won, Rochester needed series wins in just about every game down the stretch.
Though several players came alive for the Warriors when it mattered, Hartley was at the center of it all.
“He always seemed to rise out of the occasion when it mattered,” Warriors coach Brad Quarnstrom said. “He gets up for those games. You can see the competitive edge come out of him. In that Chehalis game he showed more grit and toughness than I’d seen in a long time.”
His coach said what separated Hartley from the rest of his competitors was his intelligence. Though the junior put in tons of time in the offseason with his summer league team and in the weight room, his quiet, analytic demeanor helped him mow down batters all season.
“He picks up on little things through the course of an at-bat and adjusts,” Quarnstrom said. “He’s a real quiet guy, humble. He’s always paying attention to little things around him.”
And after all was said and done, even though the Warriors fell a game short of the district playoffs, Hartley commanded a ton of respect from fellow coaches around the EvCo. W.F. West coach Bryan Bullock said he was one of the top pitchers he had seen in the state after the Bearcats were swept by the Warriors, and Hartley earned first-team all-league honors.
On earning MVP honors, Hartley said he was honored to be recognized in a room full of talent on The Chronicle’s All-Area team.
“It means a lot,” Hartley said. “All of these guys are really tough down here. It’s a big accomplishment and I’m thankful for it.”
Along with Hartley, 14 other players from Lewis and South Thurston counties were selected to The Chronicle’s all-area baseball team this spring. Read the full list below.
Brock Bunker, W.F. West
One of the Bearcats’ steadiest hitters and infielders, Bunker hit for a .323 average with 27 runs scored and 15 RBIs, helping W.F. West claim a state third-place trophy after a strong season.
In the infield, Bunker had a .912 fielding percentage with 50 assists, four double plays, and just eight errors in 27 games.
Austin Chapman, Napavine
Chapman led the Tigers with a .521 average in 77 plate appearances, with 20 RBIs, 32 runs scored, and a home run to his name. Chapman was instrumental to a strong district run that saw Napavine capture a first-place trophy and a state bid, earning a first team all C2BL honor.
Ashton Demarest, Napavine
One of the strongest catchers in his league, Demarest had a .983 fielding percentage on 118 chances, rarely committing a mistake, while also averaging .372 at the plate with 22 runs scored, 25 RBIs, and 10 doubles.
Demarest helped out on the mound as well, pitching 35 innings with just 18 earned runs, 29 strikeouts, and a 3.60 ERA.
Gavin Fugate, W.F. West
Earning a first team all 2A EvCo honor, Fugate hit .407 with 22 RBIs, 26 runs scored, and had a .970 fielding percentage at first base.
Fugate committed just four errors in 27 games, proving to be one of the top infielders and bats in a strong league.
Tony Groninger, Rochester
After a slow start, Groninger put together yet another strong season as a senior, hitting for .328 with 11 runs scored and 14 RBIs.
On the mound, Groninger had a 3.36 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 16 ⅔ innings. The Warrior senior will take his talents to Centralia College next spring on the diamond.
Conor Gilreath, Toledo
Helping the Riverhawks to a third-place finish in league, Gilreath was one of the top bats in his lineup, hitting for a .382 batting average with 22 RBIs, 23 runs scored, a home run, and 11 doubles.
Gilreath earned a first team all C2BL honor for his strong season.
Landon Hawes, Rochester
Another strong Warrior senior, Hawes hit for a .357 batting average with 23 runs scored and 11 RBIs at the plate, while earning a .923 fielding percentage, turning four double plays, and accruing 33 assists at shortstop.
Hawes earned a first team all 2A EvCo honor for his efforts.
Garrett Keeton, Pe Ell-Willapa Valley
About as strong of a bat as you’ll find at the 2B level, Keeton raked for the Titans, hitting for a .554 batting average with two home runs, 36 RBIs, 36 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases.
Keaton wasn’t too shabby on the mound either, earning a 2.35 ERA with 61 strikeouts over 41 ⅔ innings.
Jeremy Larson, Onalaska
After a strong season with the Loggers, Larson earned a first team all C2BL honor, pitching 43 ⅔ innings with a 2.88 ERA, 59 strikeouts, and just eight walks as one of the more accurate hurlers in Lewis County.
Larson was also a stud at the plate, hitting for a .294 average with 17 runs scored.
Logan Moore, W.F. West
The Bearcats’ most consistent pitcher and power hitter, Moore was a workhorse on the mound, throwing 59 innings with 82 strikeouts, with an 8-3 record and 1.78 ERA.
At the plate, Moore mashed four home runs with 28 runs scored and 26 RBIs, helping him earn a first team all 2A EvCo honor.
Gavin Parker, Napavine
No stranger to all-area teams, Parker hit for a .391 batting average with 10 doubles, 14 RBIs, and 29 runs scored for the Tigers this season.
Throwing the most innings for Napavine, Parker had a 3.69 ERA in 43 ⅔ innings with 38 strikeouts. Parker also had a perfect fielding percentage on 51 total chances at pitcher and catcher.
Tristan Percival, Adna
The Pirates’ ace all season, Percival had a ridiculous 0.66 ERA in 32 innings pitched, with 64 strikeouts and 26 walks, and just three earned runs tacked against him all year.
Percival also hit for a .650 batting average with 6 RBIs.
Caiden Schultz, Toledo
Leading the Riverhawks on the mound the entire year, Schultz went 4-2 with a 2.40 ERA, pitching 46 ⅔ innings, allowing just 16 earned runs with 88 strikeouts.
Schultz also batted .350 on the year with nine doubles, two home run shots, 20 runs scored, and 15 RBIs.
Cody Strawn, Tenino
Helping the Beavers to a strong bounceback season, Strawn was 4-0 in his starts on the mound, with a 2.60 ERA over 39 innings pitched with 44 strikeouts.
At the plate, Strawn batted .403 with nine doubles and a home run, earning him a first team all 1A Evergreen honor and helping the Beavers finish as league runners-up.