Hazen baseball going to state

After a 4-2 win over Columbia River that clinched a state tournament appearance, the mood of the Hazen baseball team was a little different on the 160-mile bus ride from Vancouver back to Renton.

After a 4-2 win over Columbia River that clinched a state tournament appearance, the mood of the Hazen baseball team was a little different on the 160-mile bus ride from Vancouver back to Renton.

“It was a long ride back on the bus,” said Hazen coach Chris Chiechi. “And they were loud the whole way home.”

The Highlanders have a reason to celebrate: The baseball team will play in the 3A state tournament for the first time since 1993.

The state berth didn’t come easily for Hazen (13-4 overall, 12-2 Seamount). Auburn (14-5, 10-4) shutout out the Highlanders 4-0 on May 3, and the team had to rebound quickly to face a talented Columbia River team on Tuesday.

Columbia River (Vancouver) is part of the Greater St. Helens League and recently beat Kelso, a team ranked No. 2 in Washington by Washingtonbaseballpoll.com.

To make matters worse, Hazen had to travel to Vancouver to play the Chieftains.

“For us to bounce back against a good team and having to travel that far, it shows just how committed our kids are,” Chiechi said.

Hazen’s Kyle Nation got his team on the board with a solo home run in the top of the second inning against Columbia River. Nation finished 2-3 with a double to go along with his homerun. Justin Jacobs added two RBIs for Hazen.

The Highlanders held their slim lead through the game, while Nathan Bunch produced another great start, striking out nine Chieftains.

“Every time you throw him out there, the rest of the team is really confident,” Chiechi said. “It’s nice to have a guy who can go out there and get the job done.”

Bunch improved to 5-1 on the season with the win. The nine strikeouts brings his season total to 67 strikeouts in 45 innings. It also marked the sixth time he has struck out at least eight batters in a game.

Bunch also came up big in the regular-season finale against Mount Rainier. The Rams entered the game undefeated in Seamount League play and Bunch pitched seven innings, giving up two runs while striking out nine. The two runs were the lowest output for Mount Rainier to that point in the season.

The Highlanders beat every Seamount team at least once this season

on the way to a second-place league finish. They outscored opponents 125-53 and were only shut out twice, the game against Auburn and the season opener at Liberty.

Hazen plays two bi-district games Saturday for seeding in the state tournament. The team meets Capital (15-3, Western Cascade League) at 1 p.m. at Russell Road Park in Kent. The second game will be determine by the results of the first game.

Adam McFadden can be reached at amcfadden@reporternewspapers.com or 425-255-3484, ext. 5054.


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