WENATCHEE — Survive and advance. That’s all any team can hope for at this point with each vying for a chance to compete for a state title later this month.
Good thing Wenatchee had Gavin Woodring on the mound in the Panthers’ playoff opener against West Valley Tuesday evening.
Though Woodring labored through the second and third inning, after giving up a pair of doubles and allowing four runs to come across, he went to work in the final four frames, relinquishing only three hits and fanning five in a near-complete-game effort.
Woodring was forced out of the game with two on and two outs in the seventh because of his pitch count, which ran over 100 after getting Rams’ shortstop Jack Vandebrake to pop out to center. So head coach Jeff Zehnder brought on junior Thomas Blakney in relief, who punched out Hunter Smith to secure the 9-5 win.
“Woodring came out and seniored (sic) up for us tonight,” Zehnder said. “He threw 103 pitches, commanded the zone, threw to contact and trusted his defense. He got the job done. It’s a special performance and that will be part of his legacy of competing in the playoffs. He’s just an outstanding young man and deserves every bit of success he gets.”
The Panthers put up nine runs, but it wasn’t like they were tearing the cover off the ball. Wenatchee mustered only two hits in the final four innings, but by that point, the Panthers had already plated eight and Woodring was mowing down the Rams batters.
After pushing one across in the first, Wenatchee jumped on top of West Valley with five in the second, thanks in part to four free-passes. At one point, six straight Panthers reached base safely as they batted around the lineup in the second. Wenatchee added two more insurance runs in the third, which was more than enough for Woodring, who had one of his best outings of the season.
The win advances Wenatchee to Friday and a road tilt with Davis.
The Panthers won their first game against the Pirates at home but then lost the next two against them on the road.
“We have a bone to pick with Davis,” Zehnder said. “It’s one of those things, they got (up on) us early on and give credit where credit is due, but we got a group of guys that are not going to give up.”
What are the keys to victory?
“Put the ball in play, get a good pitching performance and execute at the dish,” Zehnder said. “One more time, one more day.”
Wenatchee is expected to have Blakney on the bump, saving Rubash for a potential championship against the winner of Moses Lake and Eastmont.
First pitch on Friday is at 5 p.m.