CASTLE ROCK – Justin Fuller turned it up to 11.
La Center baseball coach Hunter Weiss asked his freshman pitcher how, on a scale of one to 10, he felt before Friday’s Class 1A district championship game.
Fuller’s answer, 11.
“He was pretty confident he could get it done,” Weiss said. “I like that.”
Fuller dominated throughout La Center’s 3-0 win over Elma, which gave the Wildcats their second consecutive district title and second in program history. He allowed just one hit, struck out 11 and walked none.
Fuller needed just 80 pitches to breeze through the full seven innings.
There was nothing subtle about his approach. Fuller blew his fastball by Elma’s hitters, often throwing with so much torque that his flat-brimmed ballcap fell off his head.
“The two-seam (fastball) and the four-seam were working,” Fuller said. “I didn’t need to use anything else today. The ball was running in on hitters. The approach was to get strike one, then attack a hitter.”
Fuller also powered much of La Center’s offense. His two-out RBI single gave the Wildcats a 1-0 lead in the second inning. He followed with a two-run single, also with two outs, in the fourth.
Outfielder Alex Mora, who scored two of La Center’s runs, said the team fed off Fuller’s intensity and confidence.
“It brings a sigh of relief to know we have someone out there who wants it as bad as we do,” Mora said. “It goes on from there. Once someone starts it, the rally goes on. Everyone gets excited.”
Though La Center (17-6) entered the district tournament as defending champs, the Wildcats are practically a whole new squad. Only one starter returned from last year to a team that started seven sophomores or freshmen on Friday.
“This group, even though they’re young, they’re very confident in their abilities,” Weiss said. “As a coaching staff, we’ve tried to speak that into them because we know how capable they are.”
Fuller is just now hitting his stride after battling through arm soreness early in the season. He and his teammates aren’t going to let their relative youth slow them down when they enter the regional round of the state playoffs next weekend.
“We’re a young squad, but we’re just dogs,” Fuller said. “We come out here and we want to compete.”
KING’S WAY CHRISTIAN 8, TENINO 7, 8 innings – The Knights reached the state playoffs with their second of two extra-inning wins in loser-out games on Friday.
Marcus Whitney drew a bases-loaded walk with two out in the top of the eighth inning to put King’s Way ahead.
Isaac Pisarczyk then came on in relief to nail down the save, wrapping up the last of three state berths from the district tournament.
It wasn’t the first time this season King’s Way had played two extra-inning games in the same day. On May 3, the Knights earned a doubleheader split against Seton Catholic, with both games going eight innings, in a series that helped King’s Way earn the Trico League title.
But Friday, there was no margin for error. Freshman Noah Myers allowed just four hits over seven innings, enduring five unearned runs in the fourth that put Tenino ahead 7-5.
“Noah, we can’t tell if he’s happy, sad or nervous,” Knights coach Todd Pisarczyk said. “He’s so calm and collected all the time. That’s such a great attribute for a pitcher.”
King’s Way bounced back in the fifth, tying the game on a two-run single by Isaac Pisarczyk with two outs.
Todd Pisarczyk said he’s thrilled his players will now get a chance to experience the state playoffs. Last year’s team would have qualified as the No. 2 seed from the district tournament had the state playoffs not been wiped out by COVID.
“Just going through that, it gives us such a different perspective on coaching,” Pisarczyk said. “We’re really trying to instill that in the guys, what an awesome opportunity this is.”
KING’S WAY CHRISTIAN 2, MONTESANO 1, 8 innings – The Knights kept their season alive earlier Friday thanks to stellar pitching by Derek Tarnoski.
Tarnoski needed 97 pitches to complete all eight innings, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out two.
Makani Geisen singled home Marcus Whitney for the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth.
LA CENTER 3, ELMA 0
La Center 010 200 0—3 5 0
Elma 000 000 0—0 1 0
Pitching – Justin Fuller 7 IP, 1 H 0 R, 11 K, 0 BB; Highlights – Justin Fuller 2-4, 3 RBI; Tyler Normine 1-3; Smith Stimmel 1-3; Alex Mora 1-1, 2 R.
Pitching – Gibson Cain 4 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 8 K, 3 BB; Ethan Camus 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 K, 2 BB; Landon McKinney 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 K, 1 BB. Highlights – Gibson Cain 1-3.
KING’S WAY CHRISTIAN 8, TENINO 7, 8 innings
King’s Way 003 220 01—8 8 2
Tenino 002 500 00—7 4 1
King’s Way Christian
Pitching – Noah Myers 7 IP, 4 H, 7 R, 1 ER, 3 K, 6 BB; Isaac Pisarczyk 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 K, 0 BB. Highlights – Marcus Whitney 1-5, R, RBI; Makani Geisen 1-5, 2 R; Andrew Peru 1-1; Isaac Pisarczyk 2-4, R, 3 RBI; Ben Garl 1-2, 2 RBI; Derek Tarnoski 1-4, RBI; Brayden Disbrow 1-4.
Pitching – Easton Snider 4 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 1 K, 4 BB; Carson Hart 1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 K, 2 BB; Cody Strawn 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 K, 0 BB; Mikey Vasser 1 IP, 1 ER, 1 K, 4 BB. Highlights – Will Feltus 1-4, RBI; Cody Strawn 2-3, 3 RBI; Easton Snider 1-4, R;
KING’S WAY CHRISTIAN 2, MONTESANO 1, 8 innings
King’s Way 100 000 01—2 5 2
Montesano 000 001 00—1 4 2
King’s Way Christian
Pitching – Derek Tarnoski 8 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 K, 2 BB. Highlights – Marcus Whitney 2-3, 2 R, 2B; Makani Geisen 1-4, RBI; Andrew Peru 2-3, 2B.
Pitching – Camden Taylor 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 5 K, 1 BB; Skylar Bove 1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 K, 0 BB. Highlights – Bode Poler 1-4, R; Josh Wills 1-4; Jackson Busz 1-3, SB; Denali Harris 1-3.