This weekend was all about the thrill of victory and creating defining moments for south sound baseball. Within the span of nearly 10 minutes, Tumwater and Olympia High Schools both won their first State Championship titles in WIAA baseball with thrilling bottom of the seventh inning wins. For each team, the ending moments will be etched in their memories forever.
Tumwater won the 2A championship 1-0 over Columbia River Saturday May 29 at County Stadium in Yakima. Senior Ryan Orr had a bases-loaded, two-out corkscrew single to right field that scored the winning run. Orr’s head-first slide beat out the throw at first as Briar Finney crossed home for the winning run. See the play here.
Orr, the 2A EVCO league MVP and a D1 signee at Washington State University, threw for the T-Birds for a 6-3 win against league rival W.F. West in the semifinal. In the final he had the teams only three hits including the last one of his career to win a state title.
“I was trying to stay calm and not do too much and I was trying to find any way to get that run in from third,” Orr recalled. “I wanted to be aggressive because I knew the pitcher threw a lot of strikes. We had a great season. We started off a little slow, but we figured it out about midway through and we played our best baseball at the very end. It was a great way to end my senior year.”
Tumwater had lost to Columbia River for the district final but played its final game scoreless with a gem of a throwing performance from senior Jordan Hanson. Alex Overbay took over for Hanson and had two on in the top of the 7th but struck the batter with an 88-mph fastball to lead to the dramatic seventh. In the seventh, Tumwater moved Finney to third with one out and sent senior Blake Smith to the plate in Kirk Gibson fashion to pinch hit. Smith injured his knee during the district playoffs, but had doctor’s permission to hit. Smith worked the count and ended up driving a sacrifice fly to the outfield but Finney misplayed the drive and ended up not scoring but making his way back to third. All was erased and forgotten though after the hit from Orr.
Tumwater head coach Lyle Overbay was proud of the dedication of his team. “From off-season workouts to the championship game they did not take any shortcuts,” Overbay declared. “Being state champs for me is seeing all the hard-work these kids put into preparing for that moment is the reason we are state champs. They believed in themselves and pushed their game to the next level. Great leadership from the seniors let everyone else just follow.”
Not to be out done, Olympia High School defeated its rival Puyallup 7-6 Saturday May 28 in Pasco at Gesa Stadium. Olympia scored two runs in the top of the seventh when freshman Lincoln Berg had a two-run single to take a 7-5 lead against a well know Puyallup team they had played three times previous. Puyallup put runners at second and third with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, which led to the play of the game and season.
Sax Maxton pitched after taking over for senior Taber Fast in the sixth. Maxton gave up a bloop single to right field scoring the sixth run from third. Puyallup went aggressive sending its runner from second to try to score the tying run. Fast, a D1 committed pitcher to Texas Tech, seized the moment and etched his name forever in the Olympia High sports books after he threw a rocket one timer from right field to catcher Lane Fuller. Fuller swung to tag the runner and for a moment time froze as an ecstatic crowd waited for the call from the umpire who emphatically punched out the runner clinching the state championship for the Bears. See the play here.
Fast was ready and aware when he saw the ball coming knowing it would be a do or die play. “I knew it couldn’t be a one hop and that it needed to be right to his chest, so I let it fly,” Fast remarked. “I knew that our catcher Lane Fuller was going to make and amazing tag as well and we are just so happy. Coach Weldon and the rest of the coach staff prepared us day in and day out for this. We have worked so hard this whole year for it and it was our mission.”
Rylan Haider led the Bears in the semi-final as Olympia won 7-3 over Richland. Haider, like Orr is a D1 signee at Washington State University and tied the school record for wins with a sub-one ERA and sub-one WHIP. Olympia head coach Derik Weldon praised Haider not only for his production on the mound and plate but for his leadership. “Rylan was a bulldog for us going the distance in the semi-final,” Weldon stated. “He just brought us so much confidence, toughness, leadership and was incredible for us.”
For Weldon, he was thrilled to bring the first state championship to a high school that is over 100 years old. “This has been our mission for a long time. All the way back to 2019 when we lost in the state title game,” stated Weldon. “These boys were on a mission to finish it for our program, for the class of 2020, and 2021 who didn’t have a chance to finish it. This group of seniors, this team, the selflessness, the love for one another, the commitment to get this done. I could not be more proud of our program.”
For Olympia and Tumwater high schools, 2022 baseball will always be about the hard work, dedication and thrilling seventh inning championship moments.