Twelve years after their last appearance at a state tournament, the Sequim Wolves are back, thanks in large part to a huge game from one of their more diminutive players.
The Wolves scored seven unanswered runs and got a complete game four-hitter from 5-foot 8-inch, 140-pound hurler Alex Gillis as they beat Fife 12-5 in the West Central District consolation championship game in Bremerton on May 16.
The win gives Sequim the district's third and final berth to the class 2A state playoffs that start Saturday.
"It's a huge accomplishment for our kids," said Sequim coach Dave Ditlefsen.
The Wolves (11-11) take on River Ridge, the top seed from District IV, at 10 a.m. on May 23 at Yelm High School. The winner takes on the winner of a game between the District I No.4 seed and District V/VI No. 2 seed.
Gillis, who earlier that day admitted he'd felt a bit bedraggled by injuries and sicknesses all season, threw a wonder of a game on Saturday afternoon that nearly came apart in the fourth inning.
After Fife took a 1-0 lead on a Cameron Booser home run in the first inning, Sequim rocked Trojan starter Nick Lemoncelli and reliever Cody McKenzie for five runs in the top of the third.
But in the fourth, Gillis saw his control wane, giving up four walks and four runs, helping the Trojans tie the game at 5-5.
"I almost took him out," Ditlefsen admitted. "He got himself out of a jam."
Seeking redemption for the previous inning, Gillis got hit by a pitch in the top of the fifth, stole both second base and third, then scored on the Fife catcher's throw to third base. It proved to be the winning run.
In the sixth, Sequim's Spencer Middleton ripped a two-run single and, with Fife's defense starting to crumble, Ditlefsen had the Wolves attempt several steals, leading to a five-run inning that clinched the game.
"We got pressure on them - it steamrolled for us, in a good way," Ditlefsen said.
Gillis took the Wolves home, finishing the game with just three earned runs off four hits and eight strikeouts. Just two of his six walks came outside the troublesome fourth inning.
Jason Baker was 2-for-3 with two doubles, two walks, two runs and two RBIs while Drew Rickerson had three steals and scored twice. Middleton drove in three runs.
The Wolves picked up a 1-0 victory in a win-or-go-home district pigtail game on May 12 against Washington, but faced elimination again when they lost 6-0 to ace Tyler Sullivan and the Kingston Buccaneers in the district semifinal on May 15.
The win is extra special for a couple of Wolves: shortstop Reed Omdal and third baseman Jeremie Oliver have qualified for state in all three academic seasons (football in fall, basketball in winter and baseball in spring).
All three of the Olympic League's district teams (Klahowya, Kingston and Sequim) qualified for state, topping all three Nisqually League entries (Eatonville, Fife, Washington).
The last time Sequim was a state tourney entry, in 1997, the Wolves dropped a 4-2 decision in the opening round to Lake Stevens in the class 3A tourney (Sequim was reclassified to 2A in 2006). The Wolves are 2-5 in five state appearances, never getting past the quarterfinal round.
shut out Patriots
With their backs against the proverbial wall, Matt Bereiter and Sequim's stingy defense shut down the Washington Patriots in a win-or-go-home district playoff game May 12.
The burly left-hander tossed seven shutout innings and Gillis scored Sequim's winning run in the top of the fifth as Sequim advanced past Washington, the Nisqually No. 2 squad, 1-0.
The Wolves only had five hits, but Gillis' efforts in the fifth inning were all legs. After getting hit by a pitch, Gillis stole second, tagged and advanced on a sacrifice fly to left field, and raced home on a ground ball by Baker, Sequim's senior captain. Washington's shortstop handled the grounder but his throw pulled the first baseman off the bag.
That was all Bereiter needed. After losing his first two decisions in 2009, the junior helped Sequim beat Port Townsend on May 1 and, when he got the ball to start last Tuesday, made the most of it.
Bereiter gave up just two hits and a walk while striking out seven Patriots.
"From our perspective, Matt Bereiter threw the game of his life," Ditlefsen said. "He was throwing strikes, throwing off-speed, keeping them off balance. He was definitely on."
The Sequim pitcher also got some great defense that gave up just one miscue and it nearly cost them the lead. But with a runner on third base and two outs in the seventh inning, Sequim shortstop Reed Omdal made up for that error - his own - by scooping a short-hop roller for the final out.
"(Matt) has emerged in the second half of the season as one of our go-to guys," Ditlefsen said.
Reach Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.