Usually high school pitchers can relax at the back of the other team's lineup — even here at the 3A and 4A baseball state championships at Gesa Stadium in Pasco.
But with the Kamiakin Braves, that's when opposing hurlers need to bear down.
Kamiakin's 6-7-8-9 hitters came through again in the Braves' 7-5 win over Bishop Blanchet in nine innings in the 3A semifinals. Jacob Valdez (No. 8 in the lineup, No. 1 in Kamiakin fans' hearts) delivered a clutch two-out, two-run single to tie the game in the seventh and also ripped a hit off the opposing pitcher in the ninth.
No. 6 hitter Nolan Earley went 3-for-3 with a walk and a key sacrifice bunt — one that scored a runner from second when Earley ran over Blanchet's second baseman covering first on the play. Granted, one of those hits came from the friendly skies above the Tri-Cities, which turned his fourth-inning infield pop-up into a hit. But this was the second consecutive weekend that Earley delivered with the season on the line, along with No. 7 hitter Johnny Jansen, who was 2-for-2 with a double, a run scored and two hit-by-pitches.
No. 9 hitter Tylor Machart was taking some of the best cuts of the day, singling in his team's only run until Kamiakin's four-run uprising in the seventh. He added an RBI double in the ninth.
“That section in the order, early on they were struggling and the top of the order was carrying us," said Kamiakin coach Ryan Carter. "Now it’s reversed. Those guys are setting the stage and producing the runs.”
Speaking of carry, they are going to have to come up with a whole other level of "MVP" for the pitching performances that Jesse Houser is giving Kamiakin. A full nine innings Friday for the win against Blanchet, that after a complete game against Kennewick in the quarterfinals last week when he didn't have his best stuff.
Houser has won five games in the postseason, four of those elimination games.
“He was outstanding," Earley said. "He’s been doing that since he was 8. He was a warrior out there.”