The Gig Harbor Tides baseball team nearly pulled off a monumental upset against the undefeated Puyallup Vikings.
Gig Harbor erased Puyallup’s two-run lead in the top of the sixth inning on RBI singles by Mark Sluys and Sterling Brown, tying the game at 2-2. The game remained scoreless until Puyallup’s Zach Needham doubled to right-center field in the bottom of the 10th inning, scoring Darian Clemens from second base — and giving the Vikings (22-0) a dramatic 3-2 victory against the Tides (15-8) in the first round of the Class 4A West Central/Southwest District baseball tournament on May 13 at Kent Memorial Park.
Gig Harbor’s best chance to take the lead came in the top of the seventh. The Tides had runners on second and third, but Vikings pitcher Luke Heimlich struck out Tides hitter Chad Glover to quell the threat. Heimlich fanned 10 Gig Harbor hitters and allowed just four hits in 10 innings. He finished the game with a total of 124 pitches.
The herculean effort didn’t escape teammate Needham’s mind after the game.
“He is just amazing. I don’t think any other high school pitcher goes 10 innings. He is just unreal,” Needham said of Heimlich.
Vikings head coach Marc Wiese concurred with Needham’s sentiment.
“Luke got better as the game went on. He’s that kid that just wants it. He kind of refused to allow us to lose the baseball game today,” Wiese said. “He was obviously the difference maker.”
Gig Harbor pitchers Matthew Henckel and Conor Scanian combined to allow just five hits in 9 1/3 innings of work. Tides head coach Pete Jansen was proud of his pitchers and fielders for rising to the occasion against one of the top teams in the state.
“I knew if we could play our ‘A’ game on defense — which we did today — and our pitchers could keep the ball down like we did, that we would have a chance to compete,” Jansen said. “We had a chance to win it. I told them before the game this was a once-a-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to play a team that is No. 1 in the state and have a chance to give them their first loss. It was a great game.”
Wiese said the Vikings knew the Tides would be a formidable foe because of their pitching and defense.
“They pitched the heck of a game. We tip our cap to Gig Harbor. We knew it was going to be a tough battle. It was a day where it felt like they had about 14 defenders out there,” he said.
Jansen is confident his team will rebound from the setback against Puyallup for the remainder of the district playoffs.
“If we can play these guys at 10 innings 3-2, then we’re going to roll,” Jansen said. “Our goal is to get to play (Puyallup) again in the state tournament.”
The Tides enter the 4A state tournament, which begins Saturday, as a No. 6 seed. They will take on Cascade of Everett on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Everett Memorial Stadium.Jon Manley: 253-358-4151 firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @gateway_jon