PASCO — Puyallup is one win away from a perfect season, and if the Vikings can pull it off they will know just how close it came to slipping away.
The Vikings withstood a late challenge by Woodinville to win 3-2 in the 4A state semifinals on Friday and move to 27-0 on this season. Puyallup will play South Kitsap, a 10-0 winner over Wenatchee, with a chance to finish the season without a loss on Saturday at Gesa Stadium at 4 p.m.
Woodinville (15-9) rallied for two runs with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning only to have the would-be tying run thrown out at second base on an exceptionally close play.
Woodinville had more hits (eight) than any team this season off Puyallup ace Luke Heimlich, who held on to run his record to 11-0 this season.
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“I knew we were going to come out on top,” Heimlich said after striking out six. “I didn’t feel much pressure. I’m confident in myself. They got a couple of bloop hits and one big hit, but we’ve played in a lot of close games and come out on top in all of them, so we’re kind of used to it.”
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, Woodinville’s Davis Bailie had the big hit, a triple to the center-field wall. Chris Okura followed with an RBI single to ruin Heimlich’s bid for his fifth shutout of the season and Trevor Cook, who had three hits in the game, singled to center. On the throw home, Cook tried to advance to second, but Puyallup catcher Brendan Illies took a short throw, fired a strike to second and Cook was called out.
Heimlich then induced three straight ground balls to shortstop Levi Jordan, and the quest for perfection will come down to Saturday’s game.
Heimlich said the Puyallup goal of 28-0 was set in stone at the end of last season when the Vikings were eliminated in the first round.
“It’s been a year since coach (Marc Weise) said 28-0,” Heimlich said. “It’s something we’ve worked at ever since. Everyone on this team wants this one goal, and no one wants to be the weak link.”
Friday’s win was the second one-run win in the last three Puyallup games; the third victory was a 2-0 decision.
“It hasn’t been easy for us,” Weise said. “Like I told our team, we just found a way to win.”
Heimlich, a junior who has committed to Oregon State and who entered the game with an 0.51 ERA, admitted he didn’t have his best stuff: “In baseball, you’re never going to be 100 percent on. You have to make what you do have work.”
Woodinville coach Alan Dillman was proud his team was not intimidated by the imposing records of Heimlich and Puyallup.
“To come out and have chances to win, you have to be proud of your guys,” Dillman said. “We went up there and swung the bats and hit the ball hard. We’ve been telling our guys to respect them, but there was no reason to fear them and we didn’t.”
Puyallup and South Kitsap have already played twice this season, Puyallup winning 5-1 and 10-0.
“We respect the daylights out of them,” Weise said.”It’s going to be a battle. Luke didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled. He refuses to allow us to lose, and we were going to live and die with him.”
Darian Clemens and Illies both had two hits for Puyallup. Alex Worthington worked six innings for Woodinville, which will play Wenatchee for third place, allowing three hits and three runs.
South Kitsap 10, Wenatchee 0
In the other 4A semifinal, South Kitsap routed Wenatchee to earn the rematch with Puyallup.
The Wolves scored on a balk in the first inning and never looked back. The game ended when designated hitter Hunter Riley, who drove in four runs, doubled home two game-ending runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Logan Knowles and Mac McCarty combined for the two-hit shutout for South Kitsap (21-4). CJ Waterman and Izzy Garcia had the only hits for Wenatchee (16-9).
The Wolves, winners of 11 of their last 12, will face the team that gave them their last loss, Puyallup.
South Kitsap coach Marcus Logue said his team looked forward to the challenge, even though Puyallup won 10-0 whey they last met on May 17.