YAKIMA – For the King’s Way Christian baseball team, win or a loss never comes down to one player, one play or one opponent.
So even after falling one step short of their ultimate goal Saturday, players and coaches broke the season’s final huddle with a hearty “Knights!”
The hugs that followed couldn’t quite erase the sting of 6-2 loss to Freeman in the Class 1A state championship game Saturday at Yakima County Stadium. The defeat denied King’s Way what would have been its second consecutive state title.
“We didn’t play our game tonight,” King’s Way coach Gregg Swenson said. “We talked all year long that the only team that was going to beat us was the Knights. But a lot of credit to Freeman.”
Saturday’s game closed the high school careers of two of Clark County’s top pitchers. One day after major league draft prospect Damon Casetta-Stubbs threw a complete-game shutout, Washington State-bound Sam Lauderdale took the mound.
Lauderdale struck out 11 and allowed six hits over six innings. But those hits came in quick succession, allowing Freeman to strike early with two runs in both the first and third innings.
Lauderdale left to a standing ovation from King’s Way fans after reaching 103 pitches.
“I’m definitely going to miss it,” Lauderdale said. “Like coach said, we win as a team, we lose as a team. They deserved to win. They played better than us today. There’s nothing we can do about it.”
King’s Way grounded into inning-ending double plays in the first two innings, then stranded two runners in the fourth.
Bryce Dodge finally got the Knights on the board in the fifth inning. His two-out single scored Blake Scully and cut Freeman’s lead to 4-1.
King’s Way (19-7) pulled within 4-2 in the sixth inning on a two-out single by Hunter Aarhus, but Freeman’s center fielder threw out a second King’s Way runner trying to score on the play.
Freeman (23-3) added two runs in the seventh inning. King’s Way, however, didn’t go down without a fight.
The Knights loaded the bases, eventually bringing the tying run to the plate with two outs. But a strikeout wrapped up Freeman’s first state championship after finishing in the top four each of the previous three years.
“There are definitely teams that if they were in our shoes, they would have given up,” Lauderdale said. “But we’re going to fight until the last out, like we did.”
Though the season is over, Swenson hopes the bonds among players and coaches continue well beyond. A former pitching coach at the University of Portland, he called it a joy to work with with Lauderdale and Casetta-Stubbs.
“There’s not going to be too many times when a high school coach can work with two talents like that,” he said. “They know that I’ll be there for them whenever. I hope to add them to that list of guys who check in, whether it’s at one in the morning after a good outing or two in the morning after a bad outing. I look forward to those texts and phone calls.”
FREEMAN 6, KING’S WAY CHRISTIAN 2
Freeman 202 000 2 — 6 8 0
King’s Way 000 011 0 – 2 9 1
Pitching – Michael Coumont 6.1 IP, 4 K, 3 BB; Jace Phelan 0.2 IP, 1 K, 1 BB. Offensive highlights – Keegan Cottrell 1-3, R; Desmond Parisotto 304, 3 R, RBI, 2B; Konner Freudenthal 2-4, RBI, 3B; Jace Phelan 2-4, 4 RBI.
King’s Way Christian
Pitching – Sam Lauderdale 6 IP, 11 K, 4 BB; Brannan Meriwether 1 IP. Offensive highlights – Brannan Meriwether 1-1, 3 BB; Sam Lauderdale 2-4; Riley Danberg 1-4; Damon Casetta-Stubbs 1-3, R; Blake Scully 1-2, R; Hunter Aarhus 1-2, RBI; Cole Scherertz 1-3; Bryce Dodge 1-3, RBI.