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Stilly reaches Districts with a little bit of help
ARLINGTON The hot bat of Jesse Etchey carried the Stilly Rapids Double A legion baseball team over Everett on July 13 and the Rapids got some help from their friends in Lake Stevens to reach the District playoffs.
Stilly was locked in a heated battle for the final playoff spot with Snohomishs legion team, needing Snohomish to lose to Lake Stevens in their final game of the season. Lake Stevens came through for Stilly with a 10-3 victory and Stilly held up their end of the bargain winning 5-1 over Everett to clinch a berth.
Runs were tough to come by in the early going for Stilly. They took three innings to get on the scoreboard and even then it took a key clutch hit from Etchey to get them there.
In the bottom half of the third inning Derek Grafenauer singled to lead off the inning. A fine sacrifice bunt from Lenny Lobaito moved him into scoring position, bringing up Jesse Etchey with two outs. Etchey connected on the second offering from Everetts pitcher for a clean single over the head of the second baseman. Grafenauer sprinted around third base on the play as coach Colby Knudson enthusiastically waved him in. Etchey reached first and slapped his hands together before getting a pound on the back from first base coach Eric Carlson. The run broke the scoreless deadlock and gave Stilly a much needed jolt of energy.
Leading 1-0 heading to the top of the fourth inning, Stilly got an excellent defensive play from right fielder Josh Spears. With two Everett runners on base and only one out Spears gloved a sinking line drive, tumbling head over heels in the process. Spears quickly gathered himself and fired the ball to second base in time to pick off the runner who failed to tag up on the play.
I honestly didnt think I would catch it, said Spears afterward. It seemed too far away.
Spears catch served as momentum for Stilly heading into the fifth inning where they got another run. Collin Murphy whacked a clean single to start the inning for the Rapids and moved to second base on a well placed Grafenauer bunt. A passed ball moved Murphy to third base and left him 90 feet from scoring as Kyle Ayres stood in to bat. Ayres ripped a pitch directly at the Everett second baseman who, instead of settling for the easy out at first, threw home to nab Murphy trying to score.
It worked and seemed to have ended the Rapids threat. But a walk to Lenny Lobaito put Ayres on second and brought up Jesse Etchey. Etchey again delivered a key RBI single for the home side. Ayres chugged home to put Stilly up 2-0 headed into the sixth inning.
After Stillys pitcher Kyle Ayres shut the Everett offense down again in the top half of the sixth, the Stilly bats got back to work. Tony Geist singled to start things off for Stilly. Josh Spears followed with a single and both runners advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch. After a walk to catcher Jerod Baker, Jon Brown came through with a two-RBI double that ran all the way to the right field wall. After two ground outs and a walk to Ayres, Stilly had runners on a first and second base and two outs. Lenny Lobaito then drove in an insurance run with a seeing-eye single to right field. The run pushed Stilly out to a 5-0 advantage.
Stillys pitcher Kyle Ayres continued his strong run of recent starts. After nearly being decapitated by a line drive in the first inning, Ayres found his footing and kept the Everett hitters off balance until the seventh. His only difficulty in the game came as Stilly already led 5-0.
Ayres gave up three singles and a ground out to score Everetts first and only run. He finished the game off with a smooth curveball strikeout, winning 5-1 and clinching the coveted playoff spot for Stilly. Coach Colby Knudson was positively giddy over his teams performance after the game.
Thats a big win for us right there, stated Knudson. We all knew we needed a win, but we couldnt control the outcome of the Snohomish game. I told the guys to think only about what we can do and not worry about the rest. Thats exactly what we did.
The rest took care of itself. Snohomishs failure to defeat Lake Stevens in their final league game of the season allowed Stilly to leap ahead in the standings. The Rapids enter the Legion ball tournament as the fourth seed in the North region.
Stilly 0 0 1 0 1 3 x 5
Everett 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1