SPORTS: Chimacum baseball team back in Class 1A state final four

CASTLE ROCK — A year ago, it was the Chimacum baseball team’s bats that catapulted the Cowboys to the Class 1A state semifinals.

Now, it’s all about the arms.

Starting pitchers Landon Cray and Quinn Eldridge took turns throwing gems Saturday as the Cowboys won a pair of 1A regional games to advance to the state championships in Yakima next weekend.

The duo both put up double-digit strikeout totals, with the former tossing the a complete-game shutout, as Chimacum beat Rainier 6-3 and Rochester 3-0 in Castle Rock.

The regional sweep was a change of pace from last May, when the Cowboys outscored their opponents 32-9 in two games.

“Last year we out-hit teams, this year we’re outpitching them and playing better defense,” said Chimacum coach Jim Dunn, whose Cowboys have won eight straight regional tilts dating back to 2007.

Added Dunn, “Our pitching has been absolutely on-point since the first game we played. I get more nervous when they are at the plate then when they are in the field.”

The Cowboys, last year’s 1A runners-up, will make their third straight trip to the state semifinals when they head to Yakima next Friday and Saturday.

They will be looking for their first state title since ‘07 when they face Bellevue Christian at 1 p.m. on Friday in a semifinal matchup.

Meridian, one of two teams to beat Chimacum this year, and Tenino are in the other semifinal.

“That was our goal at the beginning of the year,” Dunn said of reaching the semifinals.

“Now we’ve just got to do a little two-game win streak and call it a season.”

If Eldridge and Cray pitch like they did Saturday, that just might happen.

Cray was nearly untouchable in the regional final for Chimacum (22-2 overall), striking out 14 on the way to a complete game one-hitter.

The three-time reigning Nisqually League MVP’s lone hit given up came against Rochester’s No. 9 hitter.

Outside of three walks, not another Rochester runner reached base thanks to a perfect performance in the field by the Cowboys.

“[Cray] had excellent control,” Dunn said. “He was ahead of guys most of the game.

“And defensively we put in an excellent effort in both games. We didn’t give them extra outs, which is huge.

“At this point in time it’s critical that you don’t give them extra runs through errors.”

Mike Nordberg drove in two of the Cowboys’ runs, one coming on a ground ball in the fourth inning, and another on an RBI-single in the sixth.

Devin Manix scored the Cowboys’ other run on a hustle play after Rochester’s catcher threw the ball in center field on a steal attempt at second base.

The senior popped up, ran to third, and when the center fielder didn’t get to the ball quick enough, Dunn sent him home to score.

“It’s fun coaching in these tight games,” Dunn said. “There’s a lot more strategy.”

Eldridge was nearly as brilliant in the opening game against Rainier, going six innings while striking out 12, walking two and giving up three runs.

Austin McConnell pitched a perfect seventh for the save.

“[Eldridge] pitched extremely well for us,” Dunn said. “He was ahead of the batters all game long.

“He only walked two batters, so he did very well for us that first game.”

Eldridge was also 2-for-4 at the plate with a double, while Lucas Dukek was 1-for-1 with a double, two RBIs, three walks and two runs scored.

McConnell was also 1-for-3 with a triple and an RBI.

Chimacum 6, Rainier 3

Rainier 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 ­— 3 8 1

Chimacum 3 0 1 0 0 2 X — 6 7 0

WP- Eldridge; LP- McComb; S-McConnell

Pitching Statistics

Rainier: McComb 6IP, 4K, 6BB, 6ER.

Chimacum: Eldridge 6IP, 12K, 8H, 2BB, 3ER; McConnell IP.

Hitting Statistics

Rainier: McComb 3-3 (2B, 2RBI).

Chimacum: Cray 1-2 (2B, 2HBP, 2R); McConnell 1-3 (3B, RBI); Dukek 1-1 (2B, 2RBI, 3BB, 2R); Eldridge 2-4 (2B); Brown-Bishop 1-3 (2RBI).

Chimacum 3, Rochester 0

Rochester 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ­— 0 1 2

Chimacum 0 0 0 1 1 1 X — 3 5 0

WP- Cray; LP- Wilson

Pitching Statistics

Rochester: Wilson 5.2IP, 2K, 3BB, 5H, 3R, ER; Angwood, 0.1IP.

Chimacum: Cray 7IP, H, 14K, 3BB, 0R.

Hitting Statistics

Chimacum: McConnell 2-2 (3SB); Nordberg 1-3 (2RBI).

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