Baseball: Galena tops Tigers 8-5 to take regional title
Throughout the season, no one really came close to the Galena baseball team.
On the other side, it seemed that the Douglas Tigers played in at least one tight game every week.
Each school possessed exceptionally potent offenses (Douglas averaged .370 at the plate with 203 runs scored on the year in league play and Galena had a team average of .367 with 165 runs scored).
Something was bound to break Saturday afternoon as the school met up in the Northern 4A Regional Championship at Douglas High – it just took an entire six innings for that to happen.
Galena scored an unearned run and got a two-run home run from No. 9 hitter Matt Evans in the bottom of the sixth to take an 8-5 victory, completing a three-sport sweep of the regional championship, having won the football and basketball titles earlier this year.
“I thought that if we gave them everything we’ve got, it would have been a little easier,” Galena coach Gary McNamara said. “We gave them everything we possibly had and I am so impressed with Douglas.
“We really had to be patient today. We got up by two runs earlier in the game, but Douglas answered right back. We were in a dog fight. We gave it everything we had and it still could have swung either way.”
Galena opened the game with ace Eric Maupin on the mound, which didn’t come as a surprise to anyone in the park. Douglas, however, opened with sophomore lefty Tyler Hoelzen, a midseason junior varsity call-up who’d only started once while the team was at a tournament in Atwater, Calif., earlier in the year.
That came as a surprise to everyone, including Galena.
Hoelzen held the strong Grizzlies lineup hitless through the first two innings and gave up two hits while Galena brought one earned and one unearned run across in the bottom of the third.
“We wanted to throw a wrinkle at them,” Douglas coach John Glover said. “Galena is always so good and it worked last year with Chris Kinsley (Kinsley started against Galena when Douglas stunned the Grizzlies in the regionals last season) and we figured we’d try it again.
“He pitched unbelievable today. I can’t say enough about the performance he had against an awesome team.”
Douglas took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second after Cory Eilers drew a walk and advanced to second on a sac hit from Nate Whalin.
Ryan Pruitt, who finished the afternoon 3-for-3 with two RBIs, singled Eilers home.
Galena answered back in the bottom of the frame when Maupin drew a walk and was sacrificed to second by Basim Azzam. Maupin advanced to third when Jake Hess reached on an error and Maupin scored on a sacrifice fly from Jacob Anderson.
Douglas got back up in the top of the third as Niko Saladis was hit by a pitch, Phil Mannelly drew a walk and Eilers singled to score Saladis. Pruitt then singled to score Mannelly for the 3-1 lead.
Galena bounced right back in the bottom of the frame as J.D. Peters reached on an error and Pete Lazarri singled to bring Peters around. Tony Thompson then doubled off the center field wall to score Lazzari, tying the game up at three.
Thompson advanced to third on a passed ball to Maupin. Maupin then hit an apparent sacrifice fly to right, but Thompson was trotting home and did not slide, giving Douglas right fielder Tyler May time to throw him out, ending the inning.
Galena took a two-run lead in the bottom of the fourth as Azzam singled to left, Hess drew a walk and Anderson hit a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third.
Corey Metoyer then singled, allowing Azzam and Hess to score for the 5-3 lead.
Douglas’ Pat Lahlum came on to pitch and induced a ground ball to himself, which he was able to turn around for the 1-4-3 double play to end the inning.
“Pat gave us a great couple of innings,” Glover said. “He had a great effort. He hadn’t pitched in three or four weeks, but he came out and did a great job.
“That kind of leadership, that kind of example gives this program a chance to get the young guys to learn from it.”
The Tigers came back in the top of the fifth as Saladis singled to left and Mannelly doubled to right. Saladis came around to score after the throw from the outfield sailed out of play, allowing Mannelly to advance to third.
Mannelly came home on a balk from Anderson, who’d taken over on the mound to start the inning.
Lahlum gave up a single to Lazzari in the bottom of the fifth, but got two fly outs and a strike out to end the inning.
Douglas loaded the bases in the top of the sixth, which ended up being their best remaining chance to take the lead.
Tim Rudnick doubled down the third baseline to open the inning, but was later picked off with Tyler May at bat. May singled to center on the next pitch and moved to second on a passed ball. Jordan Hadlock was hit by a pitch and Mannelly got hit by a pitch with two outs in the inning.
Anderson came back around to record a strikeout to end the threat.
“Jacob Anderson stepped up huge with that strikeout with the bases loaded in the six,” McNamara said.
In the bottom, Lahlum recorded a quick strikeout and a fly out to Hess, but Anderson doubled to left and Metoyer slapped the ball up the middle. The ball was bobbled and Anderson was able to score on the play.
Evans then stepped up and took the second pitch he saw over right field to put the game out of reach.
“Corey Metoyer and Matt Evans, my No. 8 and No. 9 hitters, came up just as big as anyone in school history,” McNamara said. “As much as I love the 10-run games, I am so proud of these guys because they proved they can play in close games too.
“We’re not going to blow anyone out down there at state so this was good for us. Gorman is already in and Green Valley is already in, so this state tournament is going to be absolutely loaded.”
Galena is now the first Northern 4A school to win all three major male sport regional titles in one school year.
“As soon as football won, I started hearing about that right away,” McNamara said. “It’s special for the school. I’m so excited for the school, especially our athletic director, Teresa Burrows.
“I’m happy for the senior class, there are a lot of juniors and sophomores that had a lot to do with those championships as well. High school sports is supposed to be something you can remember for the rest of your life.
“There’s no question that these guys have done something that they will remember to the day they die.”
For Douglas, it marked an abrupt end to an otherwise remarkable season during which the Tigers went 25-12 overall, winning their second Sierra League title in three years and finishing as regional runner-up.
“I’m just happy we had a chance to win it there,” Glover said. “It was where we wanted to be heading into the final couple of innings there.
“I give those nine seniors credit, they got us here, they’re the ones that got us to this point and hopefully the younger guys can learn from them.”
Douglas will lose six seniors from its starting lineup Saturday, and nine total.
“It was a big class,” Glover said. “They’re the ones that got the young guys coming out to the early morning practices. They’re the ones that set the example on Friday nights, keeping guys out of trouble. And that was just the off-the-field leadership. Those were great players out there, all of them.”
The Tigers still return a solid core of veterans, including catcher/pitcher Jordan Hadlock, pitcher/outfielder Tyler May, pitcher Wyatt Graham, Hoelzen and shortstop Tim Rudnick,
“We’ll start all over again with summer ball and keep working on it,” Glover said.