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Zach Ziebell pitches Columbia River baseball past Lynden and into 2A state title game

Senior allows three hits, no walks in 2-0 semifinal win over the Lions

By Micah Rice, Columbian Sports Editor
Published: May 24, 2024, 2:33pm
2 Photos
Columbia River's Zach Ziebell delivers a pitch against Lynden in the Class 2A baseball semifinals on Friday, May 24, 2024 in Bellingham.
Columbia River's Zach Ziebell delivers a pitch against Lynden in the Class 2A baseball semifinals on Friday, May 24, 2024 in Bellingham. (Kim Blau/for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

BELLINGHAM – Like most of the 14 seniors on the Columbia River baseball team, Zach Ziebell was there two years ago when the Rapids came up just short in the Class 2A state championship game.

Friday, Ziebell made sure the Rapids will get another shot at the title.

Ziebell pitched a complete-game masterpiece, allowing three hits and no walks as Columbia River beat Lynden 2-0 in the 2A semifinals at Joe Martin Stadium.

Columbia River (19-6) will make its seventh appearance in a state championship game when the Rapids face Enumclaw (22-1) at 4 p.m. Saturday. Columbia River won titles in 1984 and 1989.

The Rapids have made a mission of getting back to the state title game since a 1-0 defeat to Tumwater in 2022.

“Going to Yakima two years ago and losing that, we want to get it back,” senior catcher Cole Backlund said. “Every person on this team wants to get it for the other dude.”

Backlund had the best spot on the field to witness a brilliantly efficient performance by Ziebell. Of the right-hander’s 74 pitches, 51 were strikes in a game that flew by in 1 hour, 15 minutes.

“He’s pitched in a lot of big games over the last three years,” Rapids coach Stephen Donohue said. “That’s why we went with him. He’s a senior and been through all the battles.”

Ziebell only had two strikeouts, but Columbia River’s defense was flawless against a Lynden lineup that attacked pitches early in the count.

“The main thing was getting the first-pitch strike, then coming back in and landing a slider and a changeup,” Ziebell said. “I wasn’t trying to do too much. Just locate the ball and let the outs take care of themself.”

Ziebell didn’t let pregame jitters throw him off.

“I actually threw up a bit this morning,” he said. “As soon as I got that first pitch in, the nerves were all gone.”

Columbia River scored both of its runs in the second inning. With two out, Backlund took an offspeed pitch the other way to right field to score Peter Lubisich, who reached on a bunt single.

After Kian Siegel singled to load the bases, Noah Larson was hit by a pitch to force in Harrison Hoffarth.

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Cashing in during the second inning proved critical for Columbia River. Lynden starting pitcher Lane Simonsen found his groove and allowed just one baserunner from the third inning on.

“The big thing we say in this program is doing the job,” Backlund said. “I’m not doing it for me, I’m doing it for the whole team. That’s what I went up there to do. He gave me a good pitch to hit, I swung and got a good result out of it.”

Backlund is now 4 for 9 with four walks in River’s last four postseason games.

“He’s struggled offensively to his standard,” Donohue said. “But in the playoffs, man he’s been money.”

The game’s quick pace and aggressive approach by Lynden’s hitters kept Columbia River’s defense on its toes. Nobody was busier than the right fielder Larson, who made five putouts including a catch on a dead sprint near the foul line to end the sixth inning.

Great pitching, solid defense, timely hitting. The formula that has proved successful for Columbia River all season just happens to fit playoff baseball perfectly.

“I feel our guys are super confident once we get into the playoffs,” Donohue said. “This is how you have to win and we can do what we always do.”

Now the Rapids hope they can rely on that recipe one more time, feast on a championship and satiate an appetite that has grown for two years.

“These guys have been hungry,” Donohue said.

COLUMBIA RIVER 2, LYNDEN 0

Lynden 000 000 0—0 3 0

Columbia River 020 000 x—2 4 1

Columbia River

Pitching – Zach Ziebell 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 K, 0 BB. Highlights – Chris Parkin 1-3; Peter Lubisich 1-3, R; Cole Backlund 1-2, RBI; Kian Siegel 1-2.

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