THE QUILCENE BASEBALL team produced a couple of historical firsts at the 1B state playoffs.
The Rangers won their first state baseball game ever in the 1B quarterfinals, and then captured third place after losing in the semifinals Saturday.
That was the first time a Quilcene boys team has ever placed in state in the school’s 102-year-old history.
And it was just the second time a Quilcene boys team has even won a state game. The basketball team won a state game a couple of years ago.
The Rangers ripped the monkey off their backs when they blasted Pateros 7-2 in the quarterfinals at Yakima’s West Valley High School.
“It was a special moment,” Quilcene coach Forrest Thomson said.
“It was our goal [to win at state].”
The second game didn’t go quite so well as Lake Quinault beat Quilcene 11-1 in the semifinals.
Lake Quinault advances to the state championship game against Liberty Christian this coming Saturday.
“Quinault has a very strong team, and they have six seniors,” Thomson said.
“They could win it all.”
Still, Thomson wishes the Rangers could have played the Elks a little closer.
“We were a little tired, which is no excuse,” he said. “Our defense was horrible, but it was a long day.”
The Rangers played Pateros at 10 a.m., and then had to wait around a couple of hours after that game to wait for the Elks to finish their quarterfinal contest.
It didn’t help that Quilcene had only 10 players suited up for the Saturday games.
“We have low numbers,” Thomson said.
The Rangers have only two seniors, co-captains Tyson Svetich, the catcher, and third baseman Lucus Murphy.
That means most of the team is coming back next year, all eight or so of them, including junior star Jacob Pleines — a pitcher who has been dominating opposing hitters the past couple of years.
“We will be fine next year [in numbers] but we will be graduating five seniors [in 2014] and will be hurting in two years,” Thomson said.
There were five juniors on this year’s team, no sophomores and seven freshmen.
Quilcene is suffering with low male enrollment from seniors down to eighth graders.
“Our classrooms are full of girls,” Thomson said.
That’s good for girls athletics but bad for filling up boys team rosters.
Thomson doesn’t see those numbers changing anytime soon.
Which means that Saturday’s first state win was even more incredible with only 10 players suited up for action.
An injury or two would have crippled the Rangers.
But they pulled up their sleeves and went to work, beating Pateros by five runs with their ace, Pleines, on the mound.
Pleines went the distance, striking out 13 in seven innings while giving up two runs, only one earned, and walking two.
The strong-armed junior had just one bad inning, the fifth, when he walked two batters and gave up two runs before settling down and getting out of the inning with the bases loaded.
Pleines helped himself by knocking in two runs in the third inning while co-captain Svetich hit two doubles.
Freshman shortstop AJ Prater had an RBI in the first inning, while freshman Eli Harrison also had an RBI in the game.
Harrison also started on the mound in the second game, and actually threw quite well despite the lopsided score.
He scattered five hits while striking out six.
“Harrison did struggle in the first inning,” Thomson said.
The freshman had a few control problems, hitting three batters and walking three.
But the experience pitching at state can only help down the road as Harrison has three more years to play varsity ball.
The Rangers finish the year 11-6, losing mostly to bigger schools.
They lost twice to the 3A Bainbridge JV team and once to the 2A Sequim varsity squad.
That state win, though, is the icing on an award-winning cake.
No matter what happens down the road, the 2013 Rangers can always say they were the first baseball team to win at state.
And bring home a third-place trophy to boot.
________Sports Editor Brad LaBrie can be reached at 360-417-3525 or at [email protected]