MARYSVILLE — There might have been some bumps along the way, but with a convincing win over Granite Falls, Lakewood baseball drove home that their tie for first place in the conference is no accident.
With an 18-1 win over Granite Falls in the second game of a three-game series April 23, Lakewood improved to 14-4 in league competition where they share first place with Cedarcrest. With a sweep of Granite Falls, Lakewood is all but assured of an automatic district berth in the early-May tournament in Anacortes.
“We had a few hiccups at the start of the season,” said Lakewood coach Larry Delaney, referring to a loss in the season opener against Archbishop Murphy and a 2-1 series performance against Cedarcrest the following week.
“I think we’re a better team now,” he added.
The Cougars had 18 hits in the game against Granite Falls, led by 3-for-4 batting from Marcus Harkins, Josh Spears and Jesse Etchey.
While Lakewood’s lead was never in doubt, the game became a blow-out in the fourth inning when 14 runs were added to the Cougar tally. Lakewood gave up just one base hit in the top of the fifth to enforce the ten-run rule, ending the game ahead of the usual seven innings.
“You get in a game like this, the kids have a fun time,” Delaney said. “But as a coach, you want those innings to end because its not fun for the other team.”
With three doubles by Harkins and a two-homer game from Spears, the seniors have risen to lead a consistently strong batting lineup. While Spears has had the bigger hits, Harkins boasts the team’s best batting average.
In another sign of the team’s evolution, pitcher Derek Grafenauer threw a complete game for Lakewood, a move away from the committee pitching approach that characterized the team’s early season games. Grafenauer threw four strikeouts in five innings, walking none.
“We had some guys step up and stake a claim to some of the jobs. Derek went out and did what he did the last five or six starts,” Delaney added.
The defense held up as well. Behind the plate, Etchey connected with second baseman Jordan Stauffer on more than one occasion to prevent the Tigers from gaining any stolen bases. The guys also turned a double play in the top of the fourth to hold a potential Granite Falls drive at one run.