PORT ANGELES — Pointing to a thriving baseball culture on the Olympic Peninsula, both Wilder and Wilder Junior baseball clubs will be busy beginning Saturday, with each team playing in their respective state American Legion tournaments.
Wilder Senior (12-2 in league, 27-7 overall), co-champions of the NW Area 1 AAA League, will begin play Saturday in the AAA state tournament at Wheeler Field in Centralia.
Wilder Junior (8-2, 15-11), undisputed champions of the American Legion Area 2 AA League, has to make the longest trip of any team in the state, traveling all the way east to Spokane to play in the AA state tournament at Al Jackson Field.
Both tournaments are double-elimination and they both wrap up next Thursday with teams playing a single game each day — no doubleheaders.
Wilder and Wilder Junior are made up of primarily Port Angeles Roughrider varsity and junior varsity high school players, though both teams have some key contributors from Sequim such as Johnnie Young and Ian Miller for Wilder and Michael Grubb for Wilder Junior.
There also have been kids from Chimacum, Forks and Port Townsend who have played on the teams during various points of the season.
“I’m feeling great about this team. We just got done with a tough tournament last weekend [the Red Devils Tournament in Centralia]. It was a great opportunity to play state-level teams. They played extremely well,” said Wilder coach Karl Myers.
Wilder went 2-2 in that tournament, with both of its losses by one run (by identical 4-3 scores).
Myers said consistency, pitching and defense have been key for Wilder this season.
“Offense doesn’t always travel well,” Myers said. And when facing tough pitching such as what Wilder expects to see at state, defense and pitching can come to your team’s rescue.
Four teams out of Wilder’s league made the state tournament, with the Skagit Sox and Baseball Beyond Borders joining Wilder and Lakeside. Wilder went 2-1 against Lakeside, 1-1 against the Skagit Sox and 2-0 against BBB.
As an example of how good Wilder’s pitching and defense have been, the team has four shutouts to its credit, four other games in which it gave up one run and seven more in which it gave up two runs. That’s 15 games allowing two runs or fewer.
One of Wilder’s big strengths is the team doesn’t really depend on a star or two that stands out. The team is deep with both hitters and pitchers and different players coming through all season long.
Myers said he doesn’t know the other teams at state that well since they are coming from all over the state, but he has been busy calling people around the state who have been watching these other elite teams. One of the scariest-looking teams in the tournament appears to be Selah Pepsi, which had a 17-3 league record in the Area 4 Southeast League.
Wilder’s first game will be at 10 a.m. Saturday against the Hanford Flames, the No. 3 seed out of the Area 4 Southeast with a league record of 12-8. If Wilder wins that game, the team plays the winner of the Vancouver Mavericks (8-4, winner of the Southwest League) and Spokane Bandits (5-3, winners of in the Northeast League) at 4 p.m. Sunday. If Wilder loses, it plays the loser of the game between the Mavericks and Bandits at 10 a.m. Sunday.
Wilder Jr. has a bit different formula. The juniors have an explosive offense, led by sluggers Lucas Jarnigan and Timmy Adams in the middle of the lineup. Wilder Junior led the NW Area 2 AA League by averaging 12.4 runs per game and the team had 10 games out of 26 this year in which it scored in double figures. Wilder Jr. had three other games in which it scored nine runs. That’s half the team’s games with nine or more runs.
“I feel great. I think our chances to succeed are great. This is a great group of kids,” said coach Zac Moore.
“We can swing it. That’s the M.O. of our team. We can tack on runs,” Moore said. He said the team has a “lot of arms” it can rely on to pitch as well.
“We have a lot of guys who can pitch when we need to,” he said.
Only two teams from Wilder Junior’s league are going to state — Wilder and third-place team Ridge (Second-place
Moore said Wilder Junior has some experience playing other teams at state, including Burlington, which swept the juniors early this season.
“We’re a different team now than we were then, though,” Moore said (Wilder Jr. started the season 1-4, but has gone 14-7 since.).
Wilder Jr. starts state play at 4 p.m. Saturday against Bellingham, the No. 4 seed and 4-5 in the Area 1 AA League. If Wilder Jr. wins, the team plays at 4 p.m. Sunday against the winner of the Pasco Sundevils (13-5, No. 2 seed out of Area 4 South) and Pullman (7-3, No, 3 seed out of Area 3 American). If Wilder Jr. loses its first game, the team will play the loser of the Sundevils and Pullman at 10 a.m. Sunday.
Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]