It was déjá vu at Bomber Field on Saturday — Richland vs. Gonzaga Prep for the District 5/8 regional title.
And just like last year, the Bombers walked away with the hardware, getting a complete game, two-hitter from Mason Hilty and a key double play in the fifth inning for an 8-0 victory and a return trip to state.
“This is a testament as how hard they have worked,” Richland coach Grant Richardson said of his team. “We had a bit of a lull in the middle of the season. You’d like to win them all, but I’ll take winning right now.”
Richland (16-6) will host Kentridge in the first round of state next Saturday.
The Bombers, who have placed third at state the last two years, are vying for their seventh consecutive Final Four.
G-Prep (21-2) turned around and beat Mead 8-4 in the second-place game, and will travel to Heidelberg Field in Tacoma next Saturday to play Skyview.
Saturday, Gonzaga Prep hung its hopes on ace Wyatt Mills, who came into the game with a 6-0 record and an anemic .54 ERA.Mills faced just three Richland batters in the first, matching Hilty’s total in the top of the frame, but the second inning took a turn for the worse for Bullpups.
Hilty struck out three of the four batters he faced in the top of the second, then the Bombers roughed up Mills for four runs on three hits in the bottom of the inning.
Tyler Kjarmo singled in a run to start the festivities, Nate Ruane sent home two more with a double over the head of shortstop Brendan McClary, and Jalen Field, who singled to reach base, scored on a Mills wild pitch.
“That was a huge momentum swing,” Ruane said.
Gonzaga Prep coach Brian Munhall gave credit to the Bombers, but was not happy with the umpiring crew.
“Not putting it all on the umpires, but there were some calls in the second that changed the game,” Munhall said. “In the end, they outplayed us. The road to state goes through Richland.”
Mills settled down and faced the minimum in the third and fourth, but his pitch count — after throwing 41 in the second — was at 82 after four.
The Bullpups, who only reached base three times over the first four innings, strung together a single by Steven Machtolf and consecutive walks to McClary and Chris Szambelan to load the bases with one out in the top of the fifth.
Lead-off hitter Kane Ulrich then hit into a double play, ending any hope G-Prep had of cutting into Richland’s lead.
“That was our chance to respond,” Munhall said. “That’s the game. They made a good play.”
Ulrich belted the first pitch from Hilty right to second-baseman AJ Shaw, who flipped the ball to Ruane at second, and Ruane finished the double play with a nice throw to Gibson McGeorge at first.
“That play was huge and helped us a ton,” Ruane said.
Feeding off their defense, the Bombers went back to work at the plate in the bottom of the fifth.
Ruane drew a walk and Garrett March was hit by a pitch. Both were caught trying to steal second, leaving the bases empty with Hilty at the plate.
Hilty singled and stole second before scoring on a McGeorge single. Hunter Chambers put McGeorge across the plate with a double to left field, then later scored on an error for a 7-0 lead.
That was the end of the day for Mills, who gave up six hits, walked five and struck out five. He was beyond his pitch count at 105.
“We battled hard,” Richardson said. “They had a good pitcher in there, but we got him with a high pitch count.”
The Bombers would add one more run in the bottom of the sixth, and Hilty struck out two of the three batters he faced in the seventh. He finished with seven strikeouts.
“Hilty threw great,” Richardson said. “Two hits against a pretty good baseball team.”
Munhall, for one, will be glad to see Hilty graduate in a couple of weeks.
“We are excited to see him leave,” Munhall said. “He has been the face of their program for a few years. You don’t have to score many runs with a guy like that on the mound.”
Gonzaga Prep 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
Richland 040 030 x — 8 6 0
Wyatt Mills, Alex Grzesiak (6), Brock Bayley (6) and Zach Bonneau; Mason Hilty and Tyler Kjarmo. Highlights—Nate Ruane (R) 2B, 2 RBIs; Hunter Chambers (R) 2B, RBI; Hilty 7K.
Gonzaga Prep 8, Mead 4: Rhett Larson drove in four runs, Justin Blatner pitched five strong innings and the Bullpups took advantage of 15 walks by the Panthers to earn a trip to state.
Dane Crater hit a double for Mead (15-9), while Darian Barlow was 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
Mead 11, Walla Walla 4: Matt Nelson ripped a three-run home run and Darian Barlow added a solo shot to help Mead (15-8) top Walla Walla in a loser-out game.
Walla Walla (7-15) had a 2-0 lead after two innings and the team were tied at 4 after three.
The Panthers, who got a complete game from Ryan Olson, put six runs on the board in fifth to seal the win.
Adam Mathews had a double and two RBIs for the Blue Devils, while Kelton Fulmer went 3-for-3 with an RBI and Zane Henderson 2-for-3 with a double.
Mead 004 160 0 — 11 10 0
Walla Walla 022 000 0 — 4 9 2
Ryan Olson and Jordan McGowan; Adam Mathews, Zach Zehner (6) and Kelton Fulmer. Highlights—Matt Nelson (M) HR, 3 RBIs; Darian Barlow (M) 2x3, HR; Morgan Ouellette (M) 2x3, 2 RBIs; Josh Tower (M) 2x3; Mathews (WW) 2B, 2 RBIs; Zane Henderson (WW) 2x3, 2B; Fulmer (WW) 3x3, RBI.