There is a good chance that Richland won’t be going too far in the postseason, and that’s just fine with the Bombers.
Saturday’s 10-0 win over the visiting Walla Walla Blue Devils not only gave Richland the Class 4A District 5 championship but also host rights to next weekend’s regional with the Greater Spokane League’s District 8 champion and runner-up.
Additionally, the regional round of the state tournament is slated for Bomber Field — with or without the Bombers — on May 18, with a slot for the regional champ. The runner-up ships off to Tacoma.
So what it boils down to is this: Saturday’s win combined with a win against the GSL No. 1 next weekend means the farthest the Bombers will have to travel in the postseason is across the bridge to Pasco for the state semifinals at Gesa Stadium.
“We came out ready to play, took advantage of some opportunities,” Richland coach Grant Richardson said. “The guys played well.”
Mason Hilty tossed a three-hit shutout and the Bombers combined 10 hits and six Walla Walla errors to put the game away in six innings.
Richland (15-6) will play the GSL district champion (to be determined Monday) at 1 p.m. next Saturday, with the winner going on to state. Walla Walla (7-14) will play the No. 2 seed in a loser-out game at 10 a.m., with the winner playing the 1-vs-1 loser at 4 p.m. for the second state berth.
That means that Wa-Hi, which has endured a rough season of injuries, is two wins away from state despite losing twice as many games as they have won.
“I really like these kids,” said a smiling coach Keith Gradwohl, whose Blue Devils won their most important game, 5-2 over Pasco in a loser-out contest earlier in the day. “They’re good kids and they’re fun to be around, and they really practice hard.”
Practice didn’t make perfect on Saturday, with three errors helping Richland score two runs in the third, and another keeping alive the Bombers’ four-run fifth inning.
Richland was not immune, either, committing four errors. But Hilty worked around them as well as three walks with six strikeouts and a host of easy flies and grounders.
“He’s a stud,” said catcher Tyler Kjarmo, who singled in a run in the fifth and whose RBI hit in the sixth invoked the 10-run rule. “If we get any runs at all ... He just bears down.”
Cleanup hitter Gibson McGeorge was in the middle of most of Richland’s scoring, touching home three times. He drove in a run with a ground ball in the first and singled in another in the third to go with a sun-induced double in the fifth.
The Bombers were constantly on the bases — four times each for leadoff hitter Nate Ruane, McGeorge, Hunter Chambers and Kjarmo.
It was a refreshing outcome for an offense that struggled the second half of the season, but now seems to be coming around.
“It started last week against Chiawana,” said Kjarmo, who went 3-for-3. “We hit the ball better and hit carried over.”
Wa-Hi starter Zach Zehner threw well, all things considered, giving up four earned runs in his five innings, with four walks, nine hits and two strikeouts.
Saturday’s win also means Richland, accustomed to playing eight games during any two-week stretch in the regular season, could play just two games in two weeks to reach state.
Any concern over rust building up? Not at all, said Hilty: “It’s good to rest the arms for pitchers.”
Added Kjarmo: “We play enough to win. We’re still the No. 1 seed, that’s the important part.”
Walla Walla 5, Pasco 2: Each team managed just four hits. The difference was four walks and four hit batters that Wa-Hi got from the Bulldogs, plus Blue Devils starter Adam Mathews walking just two and limiting Pasco’s chances.
“Adam Mathews once again — we got a chance to win when he has the ball,” Gradwohl said.
Tony Beck’s RBI double in the fourth pulled Pasco (5-17) to within 3-2, but back-to-back doubles by Zane Henderson and Zehner in the bottom of the fifth gave Wa-Hi enough cushion to bring it home.
Walla Walla 000 000 — 0 3 6
Richland 102 043 — 10 10 4
No outs when 10-run rule invoked
Zach Zehner, Kyle Barker (6), Logan Cordeiro (6) and Keltan Fulmer; Mason Hilty and Tyler Kjarmo. Highlights—Hilty (R) 6IP-3H-0R-3BB-6K; Nate Ruane (R) 2x2, 2 BB, R; Gibson McGeorge (R) 2x3, 2B, 2 RBI, 3R; Hunter Chambers (R) 3 BB, 2R; Kjarmo (R) 3x3, 2 RBI, R.
Pasco 010 100 0 — 2 4 1
Walla Walla 210 020 x — 5 4 1
Roger Ingram Jr., Justus Scott (5) and Kolby Killoy; Adam Mathews and Fulmer. Highlights—Nathan Kasselder (P) 2x3, 2R; Tony Beck (P) 2B, 2 RBI; Zane Henderson (WW) 2x4, 2B, RBI, 2R; Zehner (WW) 2B, RBI.