Centralia will get a chance to defend its title, while W.F. West looks to maintain the momentum created during the Bearcats’ run towards a district championship as both Lewis County teams advanced to the regional round of the Class 2A state baseball tournament.
The Tigers (13-11) begin their quest for back-to-back titles on May 21 when they play Lynden (18-3) at Joe Martin Field in Bellingham. First pitch is scheduled to 1:00 p.m. with the winner advancing to play the winner of Blaine/Fife in the state quarterfinals.
The Bearcats, champions of the 2A Evergreen Conference, will stay closer to home for their regional game as they play familiar foe River Ridge at Centralia’s Wheeler Field, also on May 21 at 1:00 p.m. Should W.F. West defeat the Hawks, they will face the winner of the game between East Valley (Spokane) and Sequim.
Centralia heated up at the optimal time last year, finishing second at the district tournament before winning the program’s third state championship and first since 1993 when a team featuring World Series champion Lyle Overbay captured the title.
Head coach Rex Ashmore, who was an assistant on the Tigers’ state title-winning team 23 years ago before guiding the team to last year’s state crown, heads into the state tournament with a senior-heavy, playoff battle-hardened team, featuring Nolan Wasson, Riley Christianson and Christian Peters.
The Tigers once against showed their resilience as they were an inning away from seeing their season end prematurely against R.A. Long a game for the district’s third and final state playoff seed.
After R.A. Long scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead, Centralia countered by pushing seven runs across in the bottom half of the inning–getting two runs on a double from Christianson–en route to the 11-6 victory.
Centralia is attempting to join Sehome (2007-08) as the only teams to repeat as 2A state champions.
The Tigers square off against a Lynden team that has won 13 out of its last 14 games, including a 4-1 victory over Cedarcrest for the District 1 championship.
While Centralia needed to survive a pair of loser-out games to advance to the state regional round, W.F. West punched its ticket with a convincing 13-0 drubbing of Tumwater in the district title game.
The Bearcats scored seven runs in the second and four in the third against the Thunderbirds. Brandon White picked up the win, while Brody Holcomb and Kolby Steen each drove in three runs in the victory over Tumwater.
W.F. West has won two state titles over the past six seasons, defeating R.A. Long, 8-1, to take home first place in 2010 and beating Tumwater, 12-0, to win the 2013 championship.
River Ridge, the fourth seed out of District 2/3, brings a record of 11-12 into the tournament, The young Hawks, who feature just one senior on their roster, closed out the regular season with a strong push to receive the state berth.
The two teams were members of the Pacific 9 League from 2000 until 2006 and the 2A Evergreen Conference from 2007 until 2014 when River Ridge left to join the 2A South Puget Sound League.
Looming on the other side of the Bearcats’ quarter bracket is Ellensburg, the 2014 state champion.
Should both Centralia and W.F. West navigate through the state playoffs an all-Lewis County finals would take place on May 28 at the County Stadium in Yakima.
The two teams have twice met in the state playoffs, with each program holding a victory. W.F. West knocked off Centralia, 7-4, in the 2013 quarterfinals, while the Tigers enjoyed a 7-1 quarterfinal victory in 1977.
All three squads are making return trips to the tournament having all made the round of 16 last year.
League champion Pe Ell-Willapa Valley, the second seed out of District 4, plays St. George’s in the opening round on May 21 at W.F. West High School. Napavine (12-12) faces district champion and league rival Toutle Lake (18-5) in the first round at Adna High School. The Ducks won both regular season meetings against the Tigers and posted a 10-0 victory in the semifinals of the district tournament.
Napavine rebounded from that loss to secure the fifth seed by eliminating Adna, last year’s 2B state champion, at districts.
Toledo (18-6) will travel the longest out of the three teams as the Indians play Warden at Wenatchee’s Eastmont High School in the first round.
The 2B state baseball semifinals will be held at Centralia High School on May 27, while the championship game taking place on May 28.