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News / Sports / Prep Sports

La Center baseball completes district championship three-peat with shutdown effort against Montesano

Garrett Maunu throws complete-game shutout, four Wildcats register multiple hits in 9-0 win

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 13, 2023, 2:23pm

CASTLE ROCK — Garrett Maunu learned the night before Saturday’s Class 1A District 4 baseball championship game he was picked as La Center’s starting pitcher, but the junior had already been mentally preparing himself for the spot days earlier.

After a grueling couple weeks for the Wildcats, including Tuesday’s win over Tenino in the district tournament, Maunu knew he was the team’s healthiest arm. He had a feeling coaches would call on him to take the mound against Montesano, the No. 2-ranked team in the state.

“Maybe I’ll get a shot,” Maunu thought. “I went home, started visualizing this moment, started visualizing every pitch, all the at-bats … and I just executed.”

For the Wildcats to capture their third consecutive 1A district title with a 9-0 win over Montesano, a complete-game gem from Maunu was at the forefront.

The right-handed pitcher delivered an efficient seven innings on 71 pitches (54 strikes) with two strikeouts while limiting the Bulldogs to just one hit over the first six innings.

“Everything was working — curveball, change-up, fastball. My arm was a little tired in the game. I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I can finish it out.’ … But it felt good.”

Maunu’s effort gave La Center plenty of breathing room to shine at the plate.

Branson Castleberry led the Wildcats with three hits, Houston Coyle, Justin Fuller and Smith Stimmel each had two hits apiece and Tyler Normine had a team-high two RBI.

“He’s the ultimate competitor,” La Center head coach Hunter Weiss said. “He’s one of the most competitive guys on our team at practice every day. … He was just super confident out there, obviously had all of his stuff working and he wanted it. He wanted to be out there, he wanted the ball and he told me that.”

With eight capable pitchers in their bullpen, the Wildcats have difficult decisions to make with dividing those innings. It’s a dilemma many teams would be happy to have.

Coaches do routine health check-ins with players to get a sense of whose arms are feeling the best and often organize their pitching staff based on that information.

“We’re confident that we can go out there and win with anybody, just the way that we hit the ball, and the guys know that,” Weiss said. “They know no matter who we put on the mound, we’re going to put ourselves in a position to win. There’s no let up, really, from the first guy to the second guy to the third guy.”

La Center’s bats have been hot for much of the season, and the trend continued against a quality Montesano defense.

Stimmel got the scoring started with a sacrifice fly in the first inning to plate Coyle. Normine added a base hit in the fourth inning to bring home two runs and give the Wildcats a 3-0 lead.

When the Bulldogs (20-3) looked to their bullpen in the fifth inning to relieve starter Jackson Busz, the Wildcats capitalized.

Run-scoring singles from Castleberry and Coyle highlighted a six-run inning to put the game out of reach. La Center also scored two runs on a Normine ground ball that got through Montesano’s infield on an error, plus two runs on a bases-loaded hit batter and walk.

The key for the Wildcats’ offensive onslaught, according to Coyle, was their energy.

“The dugout was loud,” Coyle said, “and that’s all we needed.”

At 19-2, La Center is undefeated this season against 1A opponents and has wins against top-10 teams Montesano and Tenino. Weiss, though admittedly biased, believes the Wildcats have made a solid case to be a host for next week’s state regional round. Weiss and Montesano coach Mike Osgood are part of the 1A state seeding committee.

The Wildcats reached state regionals last season, but were unceremoniously eliminated in the opening round against Royal. They walked away feeling like they didn’t play their best after a long road trip to Anacortes and an early-morning game. This season, they hope their experience leads to better results.

“We didn’t like the six-hour bus drive back from Anacortes,” Maunu said. “We really talked about it and said, let’s not do that again and let’s not ask ourselves what-ifs after the game. … We can either tip our caps, or win.”

LA CENTER 9, MONTESANO 0

La Center 100 260 0—9 11 1

Montesano 000 000 0—0 3 4

La Center

Pitching — Garrett Maunu 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 K, 0 BB; Highlights — Caden Taylor 1-4, 1 R, RBI; Houston Coyle 2-4, 1 R, RBI; Justin Fuller 2-4, 1 R; Smith Stimmel 2-3, 2B, RBI; Alex Mora 2 R, RBI; Branson Castleberry 3-4, 2 R, RBI; Tyler Normine 1-3, 1 R, 2 RBI.

Montesano

Pitching — Jackson Busz 4 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 K, 0 BB; Skylar Bove 0.2 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 1 ER, 0 K, 1 BB; John Griffin 1-1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 K, 0 BB; Tyler Johansen 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 K, 1 BB; Highlights — Kaleb Ames 1-3; Jaxson Wilson 1-3; Camden Taylor 1-3.

TENINO 10, KING’S WAY CHRISTIAN 4 — Austin Gonia and Kellan Knox each knocked in three runs to help the Beavers finish third at the 1A district tournament in Castle Rock. Both teams won winner-to-state games Friday.

Tenino put up four runs in the second inning to take a 5-1 lead behind RBI base hits from Will Feltus and Knox, plus an RBI double from Gonia.

The Knights got two runs back in the fourth on a wild pitch allowing Justin Wu to score and a sacrifice fly from Derek Tarnoski.

Tenino bounced back with a pair of two-out singles in the fifth from Michael Vassar and Jack Burkhardt to score two runs. The Beavers tacked on three runs in the sixth to put the game out of reach.

Andrew Peru accounted for two of King’s Way’s four hits in the game.

TENINO 10, KING’S WAY CHRISTIAN 4

KWC 010 200 1—4 4 4

Tenino 140 023 x—10 13 2

King’s Way Christian

Pitching — Justin Wu 5 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 2 ER, 2 K, 0 BB; Isaac Pisarczyk 1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 K, 0 BB; Highlights — Marcus Whitney 1-4; Derek Tarnoski 1 R, RBI; Andrew Peru 2-2, 1 R; Carson Gilligan RBI; Wu 1-3, 1 R; Conner Zahniser 1 R, RBI.

Tenino

Pitching — Brody Noonan 3 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 3 K, 4 BB; Easton Snider 4 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 K, 1 BB; Highlights — Will Feltus 2-4, 2 R, RBI; Cody Strawn 1-4, 2B, 1 R, RBI; Kellan Knox 2-4, 2B, 3 R, 3 RBI; Austin Gonia 3-4, 2 2B, 3 RBI; Snider 1-4; Noonan 1-4, 1 R; Michael Vassar 1-3, 1 R, RBI; Jack Burkhardt 2-3, 1 R, RBI; Carson Hart 1 R.

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