After having an eighth-inning victory overturned, Mercer Island refocuses and wins on a walkoff home run in the 13th to beat Shorewood, 1-0, for the 3A state baseball title.
Anthony Scalzo drew a four-pitch, bases-loaded walk and spiked his bat to the ground in elation as he trotted toward first. Noah Hsue came running down the base line from third with the winning run. Mercer Island had won its first ever baseball state title on a walk-off walk in the eighth inning.
Except, it hadn’t.
Scalzo was mobbed before he could touch first, which he eventually did. But Brandon Lawler, who was on second, never made it to third base. Shorewood second baseman Steffen Torgersen appealed to an umpire, who agreed and signaled out, a minute after the celebration began.
Following a 20-minute delay in which umpires conferred with each other, their evaluator and tournament officials, and then a protest from Mercer Island, the call stood. The Islanders and Thunderbirds played on.
So the motto in the dugout became, “let’s win this twice.” And win it twice, they did. Josh Stenberg crushed a one-out home run well over the wall in right field to give Mercer Island an emotional, 1-0 win in 13 innings to capture the Class 3A state championship at Husky Ballpark.
“It was sad, it was crazy, but at the same time, I knew we were going to win this game,” Scalzo said. “I could see it in all of our guy’s eyes. I knew we were going to win.”
There was widespread confusion during the delay, as it appeared no one knew the correct rule. Islanders coach Dominic Woody said Mercer Island got out a rule book in the dugout that proved the run should have counted, but the umps told him they weren’t allowed to honor it because they can’t bring out a rule book or phone.
As the game progressed, it did so under an official protest from Woody. If Shorewood would have won, the decision could still have technically been flipped. Instead, Stenberg ended it with a no-doubt shot to right.
“I wanted to run fast (around the bases), I was so excited,” Stenberg said. “I killed that ball. Hitting a home run is the most insane thing, and if it’s the state championship, that’s the highest you can go at this point in life.”
For Shorewood, the roller coaster of emotions left the ending even more heartbreaking.
“I just told them, we battled as hard as we could,” Shorewood coach Wyatt Tonkin said.
The odd eighth inning overshadowed a great pitching duel between Shorewood’s Cole McKisson and Mercer Island’s Alfonzo Gonzalez, with both pitching into extra innings. Will Mansfield came on in relief to earn the win. He tossed 52/3 innings of one-hit ball, as he and Gonzalez limited Shorewood to two hits.
Mansfield’s work in relief proved vital, as it allowed Mercer Island to overcome one of the strangest and emotional state-title games that provided a story line that would be hard to make up.
“Elation, celebration, everybody’s over the moon and then all of a sudden they so, ‘No, just kidding, do over,’ ” Woody said. “I just have to give my guys all the credit in the world because they refocused.”
Central Kitsap 6, Bainbridge 4
The Cougars scored five times in the top of the seventh to claim third place in the Class 3A tournament. Bainbridge, which gave up a three-run lead in the sixth Friday in the semifinals, finished fourth.
Aki Buckson, who got the win after tossing two innings of scoreless relief, doubled home two to cut the Bainbridge lead to 4-3 in the seventh. Spartans starter Dustin McCombs walked the next batter, but induced a grounder for the second out of the inning.
But Collin Palau followed with a two-run double to give Central Kitsap the lead. The Cougars tacked on an insurance run after a wild pitch.
“What a great season,” Bainbridge coach Simon Pollack said. “I have tons of seniors and they played really well. We had three really tough innings in the last four games that we played where we gave up some runs for sure. Things didn’t go our way, but really a great group of individuals.”
Bainbridge scored all four of its runs in the first three innings, with Jack O’Neill leading the way with three hits, a double, an RBI and a run scored.