Auburn Riverside quickly got the attention of Auburn ace Colton Brown on Friday afternoon.
The right-handed Brown, however, immediately returned the favor, fanning a personal-best 16 Ravens, leading Auburn past Auburn Riverside in a South Puget Sound League 3A baseball showdown, 5-1.
But as easy as Brown make it look for much of the afternoon, the game didn’t start off easy for him. Auburn Riverside sophomore Sean Rehon drilled the Auburn pitcher’s second offering of the day over the left-center fence, giving the Ravens an immediate 1-0 lead.
“It was supposed to be a change-up – it just came out funny,” said Brown, a senior who is considering playing next year at a junior college. “He just took advantage of it.
“It kind of woke me up a little.”
Indeed it did. The Ravens didn’t advance a runner past second base the rest of the afternoon, instead succumbing to a barrage of Brown heaters and nasty hammer curveballs that, at times, appeared to be falling off the dining room table.
Brown even returned the favor to Rehon, whiffing the Auburn Riverside center fielder two straight at-bats after the home run before getting him on a weakly hit grounder to first base in the seventh.
“It was a nice hit,” Brown said of Rehon’s home run. “Then I got his number and kind of gave it to him a little bit.
”No doubt about that. Brown struck out every batter in Auburn Riverside’s starting lineup at least once. He also struck out the side in the third, fourth and fifth innings and came within one strike of doing it in the sixth, as well.
“That performance … was very impressive,” Auburn Riverside coach Chris Garrison said. “He had the final say on everything.”
Still up for grabs
Auburn (9-4 in league, 11-5 overall) came into the day tied for first place in the division with Auburn Riverside (8-5, 11-7), Bonney Lake and Franklin Pierce. The top five teams in the division advance to the playoffs.
With one slate of games remaining on the regular-season schedule, the division remains up in the air. Heading into Monday’s finales (results unavailable), the Trojans, Bonney Lake and Franklin Pierce were all 9-4. Auburn played host to Enumclaw, while Franklin Pierce visited Bonney Lake.
But Friday’s win remained critical to Auburn’s title hopes, interim coach Gordon Elliott said.
“This is playoff stretch, playing for league championships and playing for league playoffs. You got to step up,” Elliott said. “Colton’s an experienced pitcher and he’s been here before. He knows how to step up and knows what it takes.
“He took control of the game.”
Despite Brown’s dominance, Auburn Riverside hung on to that 1-0 lead through the first four innings. Auburn, however, took control of the game in the top of the fifth, scoring four runs on four hits, sending nine batters to the plate.
Travis Hagel and Travis Shreve started the rally with back-to-back singles. Ryne Briley followed with an RBI-double to deep left-center field, tying the game at 1-1.
Auburn catcher Kyle Buchanan delivered what proved to be the game-winning run with an RBI ground out to second base, plating Shreve.
Auburn’s Kevin Cleary also delivered an RBI single during the inning.
The four runs would be more than enough for Brown, a lanky a 6-foot-3, 205-pounder who was a flurry of knees and elbows on the mound, delivering high-80s octane that the Ravens simply couldn’t catch up with.
After Rehon’s leadoff homer, Auburn Riverside shortstop Josh Hudson fought off an inside fastball for a single up the middle. The Ravens would manage just two more hits the rest of the afternoon.
Brown faced only 22 batters — four more than the minimum — from the second through the seventh innings.
And the performance couldn’t have been better timed, particularly in light of Auburn’s 13-2 pasting by Bonney Lake two days earlier.
“It was a big bounce back after getting it handed to us by Bonney Lake,” Buchanan said.