LA CENTER — On the warmest day of 2023 in Southwest Washington thus far, the bats of the La Center baseball team were equally scorching.
It started with a six-run first inning against King’s Way Christian that included three base hits, two sacrifice flies and a bases-loaded walk. The Wildcats took care of the Knights in an eventual 11-1 win in six innings to complete the series sweep on Friday at home.
Seven La Center players combined to produce nine hits, led by Caden Taylor and Branson Castleberry’s two hits apiece, plus one each from Houston Coyle, Justin Fuller, Smith Stimmel, Alex Mora and Levi Giles. Stimmel, a junior right-handed pitcher, had an efficient outing on the mound with seven strikeouts, no walks and one earned run allowed on 65 pitches (52 strikes).
“We came out firing,” Giles said. “I feel like we had the mindset (of) we wanted to get the series sweep. King’s Way is our biggest opponent for (Trico League). … We’re just coming out with the bats blazing, trying to stay on the ball (and) stay hot. Our bats are really hot right now. We’re batting great as a team.”
Not just right now, but really, the entire season.
La Center is averaging 10.9 runs per game and has scored no fewer than six runs in any of its 11 Trico League games, all wins for the Wildcats. A game like Friday shows production can come from just about any spot in the lineup.
“Bats are definitely hot (and) have been hot,” La Center head coach Hunter Weiss said. “One of the biggest reasons is, we just have a lot of really good athletes on our team. A lot of guys that like to attack the baseball. They really like hitting, I mean, they’re out in the cages whenever they can, before or after school. We hit a lot at practice. I think we just kind of built on the approaches that we had last year and just improved on them.”
Weiss, La Center’s second-year coach, came into a program full of youth last season with a new starter at practically every position on the field. But, a talented group came together at the right time to win the Class 1A District 4 championship over Elma and make an appearance in the 1A state regional round.
The Wildcats are still relatively young this season, but now have the big-game experience and added motivation to outdo last year’s accomplishments.
“It was definitely a confidence-booster. Coming in with the district title, there’s a lot of pressure on you,” Mora said. “So, you got to build on that. You got to work hard so nobody can take it from you. You got to come out, obviously, wanting to be the best.”
One thing La Center didn’t claim last season was the Trico League title. That belonged to King’s Way, which made this week’s series sweep extra satisfying for the Wildcats.
King’s Way (8-9, 7-5) has been ravaged by injuries for a majority of the season, but still sits in third place out of six teams in the Trico League.
La Center (13-2, 11-0) can clinch an outright league title as soon as Saturday with a win against Stevenson or a Seton Catholic loss to Castle Rock.
“We came back wanting more,” Giles said. “As a team, we have everybody back and we’re just hungry. We want the district title, we want to go to state and, of course, we want the league title.”
LA CENTER 11, KING’S WAY CHRISTIAN 1 (6 innings)
King’s Way 001 000—1 7 5
La Center 600 032—11 9 0
King’s Way Christian
Pitching — Justin Wu 4 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 K, 1 BB; Isaac Pizarczyk 1.1 IP 2 H, 1 ER, 1 K, 1 BB; Highlights — Wu 2-3, 2B, 1 R; Brayden Disbrow 1-2; Pizarczyk 2-3, RBI; Carson Gilligan 1-3; Sam Somarakis 1-3.
Pitching — Smith Stimmel 6 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 7 K, 0 BB; Highlights — Caden Taylor 2-4, 2 R, RBI; Houston Coyle 1-3, 2 R; Justin Fuller 1-3, RBI; Stimmel 1-3, 1 R, RBI; Aiden McCaid 1 R; Branson Castleberry 2-3, 2 R, RBI; Braydon Winston RBI; Alex Mora 1-2, 3B, 2 R; Wyatt Eisland RBI; Tyler Normine 2 RBI; Levi Giles 1-2, RBI.