Lynden Christian junior Payton Robertson is an ace on the mound (2.66 ERA) and a weapon at the plate (.373 batting average) for the Lyncs. (Nick Elges/Lynden Tribune)

Lyncs standout junior leads team into postseason 

LYNDEN — Whether on the mound or at the plate, the talents of Lynden Christian junior Payton Robertson have proved to play a big role in the success of the Lyncs baseball team throughout the 2018 campaign. 

As Lynden Christian (12-8) heads into the Class 1A Bi-District Tournament on Saturday, the hitting, pitching and leadership of Robertson will be vital to LC’s hopes of returning to the state regional round of the postseason for the first time since 2003. 

Lynden Christian begins play in the bi-district tourney at 10 a.m. Saturday at Sehome High School against Overlake-Bear Creek or University Prep of the Emerald City League. The winner moves on to the winner-to-state semifinal round at 2 p.m. Saturday at Joe Martin Field, and the loser drops to the consolation bracket and will be faced with elimination at 2 p.m. Saturday. 

Robertson managed a 2.66 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched for the Lyncs during the regular season. He was equally impressive at the plate and ranked among the team leaders with a .373 batting average, 25 hits and 22 RBIs. 

Robertson’s love for the game stems mostly from his father’s time on the diamond when he was at Bellingham High School and Edmonds Community College. Robertson also said that most of his family has played or currently plays sports.

The junior also attributes his development to his participation in summer league baseball, where he plays for Bellingham Post 7 under Meridian head coach Steve Slesk. 

Despite becoming so effective at the plate, Robertson said he still prefers to be known as a pitcher. “Pitching is what I’ve always done and what I love,” he said. 

Playing on an offensively strong team this spring that also includes seniors Shane Whittern (.491 BA, 26 runs scored, 26 hits, seven doubles, 15 stolen bases) and Ty VanDyken (.392 BA, 20 hits, four triples) among many other solid hitters, the junior likes what he’s seen out of his fellow players. 

“Everybody’s kind of clicking a little bit more (throughout the season),” Robertson said. “Being on the same page is something we have going for us. There’s a lot of friendships on this team.”

While Robertson has been effective in multiple phases of the game, Lynden Christian third-year head coach Dan VanderKooi points to his character and leadership as the most impressive parts of his game. 

"He’s a big part of our lineup and what makes us go,” VanderKooi said, adding that Robertson provides continuity on the mound and on offense. “What impresses me the most about him is he’s such a good teammate. He wants to do what he can to help the team, but that doesn’t mean he’s above laying down a bunt or doing whatever he needs to do. He’s often the first guy at practice and the last to leave.” 

Last season, the Lyncs came up one game short of the state regional round, falling to Northwest Conference foe Meridian in the bi-district third-place game. Behind a corps of seniors (VanDyken, Whittern, Dylan VanderYacht, Tanner Jansen and Jared Smit) and juniors (Robertson, Cole Langstraat, Damyn Dykstra, Simon Anker), LC has the firepower and experience to take the next step. 

For a program that hadn’t been accustomed to winning for some time, having the expectation of reaching regionals is a clear sign that the program has turned a corner under VanderKooi. 

“Coach Dan, he really turned this thing around,” Robertson said. “He’s really changed the tone of how people perceive LC baseball. That’s influenced the players greatly and created a winning mentality.” 

Eric Trent covers sports for the Lynden Tribune.