WENATCHEE — After the Wenatchee Valley College baseball team beat Columbia Basin 9-3 on Saturday to earn a doubleheader split at Paul Thomas Sr. Baseball Stadium, the Knights wanted to celebrate, but they couldn’t. At least not right away.
WVC needed Walla Walla to beat Spokane in the second game of a doubleheader to earn a spot in this weekend’s Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges East Region playoffs. At the time of the Knights’ win, the contest between the Sasquatch and the Warriors was in the seventh inning.
Therefore, WVC’s players and coaches and some parents lingered at the field, eagerly but nervously awaiting updates from the Spokane game. When they found out that the Sasquatch broke a 5-5 tie with three runs in the top of the ninth, the Knights let loose a few muted hollers. A few minutes later, when pitcher Johnny Garcia yelled out to the gathered crowd that Walla Walla had held on for the victory, thus giving the East’s fourth spot to WVC, the Knights players charged into their clubhouse to begin a raucous celebration.
“This is pretty cool,” WVC coach Dustin Willis said. “We didn’t do it the way we wanted to do it, but the only thing that matters now is that we’re in. Two years ago we weren’t competitive. Last year we snuck up on some people and got better. This year, the expectations were higher. I’ll take our chances against anybody. I think we can be the most talented team in the league. We don’t always play like it, but if we can put it together, I think that we can compete with anybody.”
WVC languished in sixth place in the East until as recently as two weeks ago, but after the Knights were swept in a doubleheader by Walla Walla, they posted two wins over East champion Treasure Valley en route to winning eight of their final 10 games to pass Spokane and Columbia Basin in the standings.
“It’s been a roller-coaster at times, but we’ve gotten better, and we played better in the second half of the season to put ourselves in this position,” Willis said. “(Entering this season), I thought we’d have a chance to compete. When you look at our record against the top teams, we’re right there. We’ve been a little inconsistent, the only thing that matters is that we (advanced to the postseason).”
WVC (21-19, 16-11 East) could’ve eliminated all of the later drama by sweeping the Hawks on Saturday, but the Knights mustered just five hits and lost 3-1.
They scored four runs in the first inning of the nightcap, however, and never trailed from there.
“We had the opportunity (to take care of things ourselves), but unfortunately we couldn’t get big hits in the first game,” Willis said. “After the first game, I told the kids that the (second) game would be our season, and that they’d have to take care of their part. They stepped up and answered the call.”
Mitch Yada pitched six solid innings in the nightcap, and Randy Fuller continued his hot hitting with three hits and two runs driven in.
WVC 6-4, Yakima Valley 2-8
Visiting WVC saw its 20-game winning streak snapped with a loss in the nightcap, its final regular-season game of the season.
The Knights (39-4 overall) will begin NWAACC Tournament play on Friday in Portland.
“(The loss) will be great motivation for us heading into the tournament, quite honestly,” WVC coach Shelly Pflugrath said. “You never like to lose, but I’d rather (the loss) be today than at the tournament. It’s hard to be good to be good all the time, but we’ve been good 98 percent of the time this year, and I’ll take that.”