Lynden, LC, Meridian, Nooksack in action Saturday
WHATCOM — May is already upon us, and so too is the start of the prep baseball playoff season.
After surviving a slate of 20 games during the regular season, Lynden, Meridian, Lynden Christian and Nooksack Valley have earned berths into their postseason district tournaments, which are set to kick off this week.
On Thursday, April 26, all four playoff-bound teams concluded the regular campaign: Lynden outslugged Lakewood 13-1, Meridian squeezed past Blaine 2-1, Lynden Christian beat Mount Baker 6-4 and Nooksack Valley fell to Burlington-Edison 12-1.
Lynden (14-6, 10-3 Northwest Conference) bounced back from a three-game losing streak entering its season finale to secure a third-place finish in the conference. The Lions’ record earned them the No. 3 seed in the Class 2A District 1/2 Tournament, where Lynden plays Mountlake Terrace on Saturday at noon at Anacortes’ Volunteer Park.
The top four teams in the tournament will advance to the state regional round of 16, a place Lynden has reached in each of the past two seasons. If the Lions win on Saturday, they would play a winner-to-state game in the district semifinals on Tuesday, May 8. A loss would drop Lynden to the consolation bracket to battle for third and fourth places.
In Class 1A, Meridian (13-7, 8-5 NWC) earned the No. 1 seed out of the 1A NWC league. The Trojans had lost three out of four games before beating the Borderites in Thursday’s finale.
Meridian starts its playoff run on Saturday in the 1A Bi-District 1/2 Tournament at Joe Martin Field, where the Trojans take on King’s at noon. A win there would send the Trojans to the tournament semifinals, a game that serves as a state qualifier, at 4 p.m. later that day. A loss would drop Meridian to the loser’s bracket to battle for third place, also at 4 p.m. Saturday at Sehome High School. The top three placers move on to state regionals.
The Trojans advanced to the regional round last season, losing 6-4 to Seattle Christian in the round of 16. Under coach Steve Slesk, Meridian has reached regionals in six out of the past eight seasons.
Leading MHS this season is a group of eight seniors — Bryson Hickok, Warren Utschinski, Baker Otter, Simon Burkett, Henry Skaggs, Cole Weidkamp, Lukas Hemenway and Matthew Belanger.
The championship and third-place games for the bi-district tourney are set for Saturday, May 12, at Joe Martin Field and Sehome at 2:30 p.m.
Lynden Christian (12-8, 7-6 NWC) finished just behind Meridian in the NWC 1A standings, earning the No. 2 seed for Saturday’s tourney. LC’s win over Baker to end the regular season followed a three-game losing streak. In the finale, junior starting pitcher Payton Robertson pitched 6.1 innings for the Lyncs, striking out 10 batters with just one hit allowed. Senior Shane Whittern came up with three RBIs.
Now LC will take on either Overlake-Bear Creek of the Emerald City League to kick off the bi-district tourney at 10 a.m. Saturday at Sehome HS. 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.
Lynden Christian hasn’t experienced the state regional round of the playoffs since 2003.
Nooksack Valley (9-11, 4-9 NWC) earned the final of three playoff spots out of the NWC 1A, and the Pioneers will take on Cedar Park Christian (Bothell) at 10 a.m. Saturday at Joe Martin Field to start the 1A bi-district tourney.
A win over the Eagles, who finished second in Class 1A at state last May, would send the Pioneers to the semifinal round against the winner of Lynden Christian’s contest at 2 p.m. Saturday. A loss would put Nooksack in a loser-out scenario at 2 p.m. Saturday at Sehome HS.
This season, junior Austin O’Bryan has been productive on offense for Nooksack, picking up seven doubles and eight stolen bases to go along with 19 RBIs. The Pioneers’ leading pitcher has been sophomore Easton Zylstra (2.44 ERA, team-leading three wins).
The Pioneers last reached the state regional round of 16 in 2016, losing in the quarterfinal round.
Mount Baker (3-14, 1-12 NWC) is the lone NWC 1A team not moving on to the playoffs. The Mounties finished the season with an 8-7 non-league loss at Sedro-Woolley on Friday — Mount Baker lost seven games by two runs or less this spring.
*Statistics courtesy of coaching staffs and WhatcomPreps.com.