RICHLAND — This has been some kind of so-called ‘rebuilding’ year for the Cashmere baseball team.
The Bulldogs advanced to the 1A state championship game for the second consecutive season with an 8-2 semifinal win over Caribou Trail League rival Cascade on Saturday at Richland High School.
The contest was postponed one day and moved from Yakima due to rain.
Cashmere went unbeaten en route to its second state title in three years last season, but graduated eight starters and entered the 2013 campaign with a virtually new squad.
The Bulldogs won their fifth straight CTL title and won two state regional games last week to advance to their fourth ‘final four’ in the past five seasons.
“I’m so proud of these guys,” Cashmere coach Jeff Carlson said. “Dealing with all of the adversity (caused by the weather), they didn’t skip a beat. They played well today, and we’re really excited about where we’re at right now.”
The Bulldogs will take on Montesano, which beat Tenino 6-5 in Saturday’s other semifinal, in today’s championship game at Richland.
“They will be a good challenge for us,” Carlson said. “But we like our chances. The guys aren’t satisfied; they want to get another one.”
Cascade scored a run in the first inning of Saturday’s game, but Cashmere responded in its half of the frame on a Connor Badgley two-run single.
The Bulldogs scored again in the second inning on a Bryan McNair RBI single.
In the fourth, Mason Elliott ripped a single to score McNair, giving the Bulldogs a 4-1 advantage, but the Kodiaks responded in the fifth as Mike Allen scored on an infield error.
The game’s key sequence occurred in the bottom of the fifth inning. Cashmere executed two successful squeeze bunts in a row off the bats of Jonathan Modrell and Chandler Radke to give the Bulldogs a 6-2 advantage. They tacked on two more runs in the sixth on a Dylan Tarver run-scoring single and a groundout.
“The (squeeze bunts) opened the floodgates,” Carlson said.
Devin Knight was superb on the mound for the Bulldogs, allowing five hits and three walks while striking out four in a complete-game performance.
“Devin did a great job of working ahead of the hitters,” Carlson said.
“We had opportunities,” Cascade coach Mike Kelly said. “We didn’t barrel up a lot of balls like we’re used to. We had to try to manufacture runs in different ways. We tried to be methodical, but we had a couple of big baserunning mistakes that took us out of some potentially big innings.
“But we didn’t roll over. It was just one of those days for us.”
Derek Darlington also went the full game, giving up 12 hits and four walks while striking out three.
Badgley and McNair led the Bulldogs with three hits.
“We’re getting a lot of production from the bottom of our lineup,” Carlson said. “We’re pretty tough to beat when we’re getting hits from all nine guys in the lineup. We had five stolen bases as a team; we put the game in motion.
Jesse Ward had two hits for the Kodiaks, who will play Tenino this morning in the consolation final.
“This wasn’t the outcome that we had anticipated,” Cascade coach Mike Kelly said. “Attribute that to experience. We played tight. (Cashmere) played like they had been there before.
“I think we’ll be all right (for today). I expect us to go out and just be us.”