With their season on the line for the second time in five days, Mercer Island needed people to step up; they got plenty of players to do just that. The Islanders got a huge offensive output to back freshman starting pitcher Chris Lawler as they cruised to an 11-1 victory in five innings over Sammamish Saturday afternoon at Bannerwood Stadium.
Early on, head coach Cory Smith’s choice to send a freshman pitcher out on the mound for a loser out game looked like a bad one. Lawler hit the leadoff hitter Craig Sweet and Aaron Laurenson followed up with a single to open the game. With two outs, Lawler walked Tyler Hormel to load the bases but got Ryan Hashimoto to strike out and avoid a potentially harmful inning.
Lawler’s offense immediately provided some support for him in the bottom of the first. David Oppeheim, who was promoted to the leadoff spot, walked to open the game. After advancing to second on a ball that got away from the catcher Sweet, Oppeheim stole third. After Jordan Richartz was intentionally walked, Sammamish starter Joe Giacchetti was having trouble diverting his attention away from the Islander senior. After already making two moves over to first, Richartz’s aggressive lead drew Giacchetti into a balk which brought home Oppeheim for the game’s first run.
The Totems countered immediately though. With two outs and a runner on second, Sweet drove a single to left to bring in the only run of the afternoon for the Totems. With the score tied at one going into the bottom of the third, tensions began to show in the Mercer Island dugout as players became very irritable towards one another. Tensions were not relieved when courtesy runner Isak Morris was caught drifting too far off third while Oppeheim was stealing second. Fortune changed quickly though for Mercer Island. Evan Thompson blasted a double off the left field wall which brought home Oppeheim and then Richartz brought Thompson home with a base hit to right. The Islanders opened the bottom of the third with four consecutive hits and seven straight players reaching base. Brian Higgins, whose bat has been on fire lately, capped the four run inning with a 2 run double to right field.
After Lawler dismissed the Totem’s rather quickly in the fourth, Mercer Island put their stamp on the game in the bottom half of the frame. After George Jiranek, the only player to not reach base for Mercer Island, popped out to lead off the inning, eight straight hitters reached base. The Islanders walked three times and Alberto Gonzalez also was hit by a pitch among four hits in the inning. Richartz provided the big hit again with a 2 run single to right field. Richartz went 2-2 on the day with a walk and three RBI. The Islander bats forced Sammamish into desperation mode as the Totems used four different pitchers, who threw a combined 54 pitches, to get out of the five run fourth.
Reliever Isak Morris put the Totems down 1-2-3 in the top of the fifth which opened the doors for MI to end the game early with just one run. Oppeheim, who finished 3-3, four runs and a walk, took the first pitch of the inning to the base of the wall in right center for a double. With pinch hitter Nick Holstead at the plate, Oppenheim took off for third. Sweet’s throw sailed into left field and Oppeheim scored easily from third to end the ballgame and Sammamish’s season.
The big story of the day though was Lawler. The freshman not only threw four quality innings on the mound, in which he allowed only three hits, a run, two walks and 4 strikeouts, but he went 2-3 at the plate with both hits being very sharply hit. “After the second inning, I really settled down. My defense helped me a lot behind me and got my confidence up,” said Lawler who added that at the plate, “I was seeing the ball good today. It was the first time in a while I felt super good at the plate.” His coach, Smith, who admitted he “would have looked like an idiot” if things didn’t go so well with Lawler, explained why there was little hesitation with sticking the young kid on the mound: “He loves to compete and he’s just got a great head on his shoulders and he proved it today…He continues to compete for us and I continue to be impressed with him.”
Unfortunately, the Islanders have very little time to celebrate. They will play Lake Washington at 4:00 back at Bannerwood in another loser out contest. The winner will play either Bishop Blanchet or West Seattle on Tuesday.