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4A bi-district baseball: James Gill pitches, hits Battle Ground to a 3-2 win over Graham-Kapowsin

The sophomore's home run sparks a two-run rally in the sixth inning for the Tigers

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published: May 7, 2024, 9:08pm
3 Photos
Battle Ground sophomore James Gill make a pitch in the Tigers' 3-2 win over Graham-Kapowsin in a 4A bi-district baseball playoff game at Heritage High School on Tuesday, May 7, 2024.
Battle Ground sophomore James Gill make a pitch in the Tigers' 3-2 win over Graham-Kapowsin in a 4A bi-district baseball playoff game at Heritage High School on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Tim Martinez/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The Battle Ground baseball team is unbeaten this season when sophomore James Gill is on the mound.

It also helps when Gill is swinging a big bat.

Gill pitched seven solid innings and delivered a game-tying home run in the sixth inning that rallied the Tigers to a 3-2 win over Graham-Kapowsin in a 4A bi-district loser-out baseball game Tuesday at Heritage High School.

“That’s what James is,” Battle Ground coach Seth Johnson. “Every time he goes out on the mound, he’s successful. We’re 5-0, now 6-0, when he throws. He was phenomenal today. And obviously that hit — huge, huge. It changed the game, and we needed it. He’s been that way all year, offensively and on the mound. He’s elite.”

After Graham-Kapowsin pushed across a run in the top of the first inning, it was Gill who got the Tigers even, driving in Noah Salyers with a two-out RBI single in the third inning.

But the Eagles scratched across another run in the top of the fourth to go up 2-1.

Graham-Kapowsin pitcher Kaden Bourgeau kept that one-run lead intact until Gill led off the bottom of the sixth.

Gill turned on a pitch and drove it over the right-field fence, just inside the foul pole.

And even as the umpires conferred on if the ball was fair or foul, Gill celebrated with his teammates in the dugout.

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“Oh, I knew it was fair,” Gill said. “And it kept going from there. Just talking, hitting and playing in the field when I was pitching.”

After Gill’s home run, Jayden Sivits singled, but a caught stealing looked like it might short-circuit the Tigers’ rally.

But then Ethan Nelson battled back from a 1-2 count to earn a pivotal walk.

“The biggest at-bat was Ethan Nelson working that walk,” Johnson said. “Getting down 1-2, and their kid (Bourgeau) is pretty good. When he throws strikes, he’s very tough. He has a very good breaking ball. When you’re in a situation where it’s 1-and-2, it’s very tough for a hitter. But Ethan battled back and got the walk. Besides James’ home run, that was the biggest at-bat of the game.”

Jacob Long went in to run for Nelson, and Long went from first to third on a single by Keegan Moffatt. Then Ethan Adams’ sacrifice fly scored Long to put the Tigers ahead.

In the top of the seventh, Gill retired the Eagles in order to keep the season alive for the Tigers. Gill allowed just three hits and one earned run. He struck out seven and did not walk a batter.

It’s been a bumpy couple of weeks for Battle Ground. The Tigers had a chance to clinch the No. 1 seed, which would have provided an easier path to a state berth. But Battle Ground fell to Union in the final 4A Greater St. Helens League game of the season, allowing Camas to grab the No. 1 seed.

As the No. 2 seed, Battle Ground needed to win two loser-out games in the tough District 3/4 tournament to earn a shot at a state berth. Tuesday’s win was the first.

Next up, Battle Ground will travel Wednesday to play another loser-out game against Decatur of Federal Way. If the Tigers win that game, they will get two chances on Saturday to secure a state berth.

“That league is a tough league,” Johnson said of the South Puget Sound League where Graham-Kapowsin competes in. “So we knew this would be a tough game. And then moving forward will be a tough game as well. It’s just one game at a time. We’re just excited for the opportunity to play in the bi-district and to be playing playoff baseball.”