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Comeback Lions crash state 3A semifinals | Prep baseball
Senior Nick Brooks' walk-off RBI single lifted top-ranked Auburn Mountainview past Decatur 9-8 in the state 3A baseball quarterfinals at Centralia last Saturday.
The Lions (24-3) will play Kennewick at 1 p.m. Friday in the state semifinals at GESA Stadium in Pasco.
A win puts the Lions into the title game at 4 p.m. Saturday against the survivor of the Mount Si-West Seattle semifinal, which is set for 10 a.m Friday.
"We have the talent, the focus, the ability and the desire to win two games this weekend," coach Glen Walker said. "We are confident in our abilities as a group and will compete until the end. We expect nothing less than a state championship."
Against Decatur, Auburn Mountainview, as it did in the district playoffs, pulled out another win in dramatic fashion.
The Gators (17-11) had taken an 8-6 lead into the seventh inning, but the Lions responded.
Brice McCulloch led off the bottom of the seventh with a double. Matt Anderson singled before shortstop Tyler Friis tied the game on a clutch two-run single up the middle.
The Lions then loaded the bases on a walk, single and fielder's choice, setting the stage for Brooks, the South Puget Sound League 3A Player of the Year, who connected on the game-winning hit.
"This team continues to prove that they are one of the best teams in the state of Washington," Walker said. "There is a 'never say die' attitude among every single player. They love playing the game.
"There were times when it seemed like our season was going to end, but as Brice McCulloch said to us (the other day), 'I knew that that was not going to be my last at-bat as a Lion,'" Walker said. "This team finds ways to score runs and consistently responds positively when placed into a dire situation. I love this team."
The win was the Lions' fifth in six meetings against their SPSL rivals this season.
Senior Kekoa Nahaku finished the game with a 5-for-5 performance, including three runs and a double.
Friis had two RBIs and a double and senior Jeffrey Morgan added two RBIs and a double, as well.
Auburn Mountainview junior Joey Cassano earned the win on the hill with 3 2/3 innings of relief.
Decatur shortstop Isaiah Hatch, who played for Auburn Little League during its dream season that culminated at Williamsport, Pa., in 2010, homered twice in the game.
Auburn Mountainview opened the state regional at Ed Wheeler Field in Centralia with a 2-0 victory against Glacier Peak. Brooks threw a complete-game shutout, striking out 10. McCulloch hit an RBI double in the second inning.