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Gavin Knoblich comes flying in to score Monday during a 13-2 Coupeville win. (Karen Carlson photo)

The playoff chase comes through Coupeville.

Putting together their best offensive game of the season Monday, the Wolf baseball squad pasted visiting Sultan 13-2, and now we’re talking about winning streaks and postseason possibilities.

Having won back-to-back games, Coupeville rises to 2-8 in North Sound Conference play, 2-12 overall.

That puts them a half-game up on Granite Falls (1-8, 3-11) and Sultan (1-8, 1-13) as the trio chase the fourth, and final, NSC playoff berth.

The Wolves play two more against the Turks this week, Wednesday in Sultan, and Friday at home, then closes the regular season with three against Granite.

While CHS can’t catch Cedar Park Christian (12-0, 15-1) or South Whidbey (10-2, 14-2), and has only an outside chance of pulling even with King’s (5-5, 6-9), the Wolves control their own destiny in the chase for the #4 seed.

Monday, that meant coming out and puttin’ a hurtin’ on Turk pitching.

In a season in which their single-game scoring high was four runs — in Friday’s epic upset of South Whidbey — the Wolves unlocked the full potential of their bats on this day.

The game was actually close through two-and-a-half innings, knotted up at 2-2 after the Turks scraped together a pair of runs in the first and Coupeville responded with one each in the first and second.

After a momentary jam in the first frame, Wolf hurler Dane Lucero was lights-out the rest of the way, giving up just a lone hit across the final four innings while whiffing eight Turks.

Both of Coupeville’s early runs came thanks to two-out, no-one-on-base rallies.

In the first, Jake Pease whacked a single, stole second, then came round to score after consecutive walks to Lucero, Gavin Knoblich, and Daniel Olson.

An inning later, it was Matt Hilborn who punched a two-out single. A stolen base put him into scoring position, and Hawthorne Wolfe obliged with another base-knock.

But, if the game was a tight affair until the bottom of the third, it became a blowout once Coupeville came to bat in that frame.

The Wolves sent 14 batters to the plate, with 11 of them coming around to tap home, and the bonanza was set up by a mix of walks, Sultan errors and good old fashioned CHS base hits.

Pease delivered the biggest blow, crunching a double, while Olson came around to hit twice in the inning and smacked singles both times.

Toss in base-knocks for Lucero, Knoblich, and Cody Roberts, and seven of Coupeville’s nine starters collected a hit in the game.

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Freshman outfield ace Hawthorne Wolfe, who had a strong day defensively Friday, charges in to retreive a ball. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Ulrik Wells goes low to snag a hot bouncer.

Morgan Pease gives the thumbs up after big bro Jake clobbers a key RBI double.

Matt Hilborn deals.

The prairie was alive with various sounds Friday afternoon.

Bats hitting baseballs. Fans roaring. And the steady click-click-click of John Fisken’s camera.

The energetic paparazzi moved to and fro as Coupeville’s big win over arch-rival South Whidbey played out, and the pics seen above are courtesy him.

To see everything he shot, pop over to:

https://www.johnsphotos.net/Sports/Coupeville-baseball-2018-2019/BB-2019-04-12-vs-South-Whidbey/

And remember, a percentage of all sales goes to help fund scholarships for CHS student/athletes.

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Ulrik Wells flies home with the winning run Friday, as 0-12 Coupeville stuns 13-1 South Whidbey. (Karen Carlson photo)

The scruff is on its way out.

As his team fought through a 12-game losing streak to open the season, Coupeville High School assistant baseball coach Mike Etzell pledged to keep growing his beard until his boys won.

Friday afternoon, the Wolves pulled off one of the great upsets in prairie history, and Mike’s wife, Kristi, is on her way with the clippers.

Now, Coupeville and South Whidbey, schools separated by a fairly short drive and united by many players and coaches having competed together, have played numerous times over the decades.

Friday produced one of the more stunning results in the long rivalry, however, as Coupeville, which came in at 0-12, stormed from behind to topple a 13-1 Falcons squad, scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh to claim a 4-3 victory.

The turn of events has major repercussions across the North Sound Conference.

For one, it gives the Wolves a huge shot of confidence as they head into three-game series with Sultan and Granite Falls, the teams they’re fighting with for the final NSC playoff slot.

Plus, the unexpected ding drops South Whidbey to 10-2 in league play, knocking it two games back of league-leader Cedar Park Christian, which is 12-0 after nipping King’s 1-0 Friday night.

The two schools close the regular season with a three-game clash Apr. 22-26, and now South Whidbey will have to sweep the series if it wants to win a league title.

While a rebuilding Coupeville hardball squad hasn’t been able to match last year’s team, which went 15-6 and missed the state tourney by just a game, this group of Wolves has fought hard day in and day out.

They’ve been close to a win before, falling a run shy against King’s and Lynden Christian, but Friday they reached nirvana thanks to their most complete performance of the season.

Senior pitcher Matt Hilborn was humming on the mound, the defense was air-tight, and, for the first time all year, the Wolves got big hits in crucial moments.

The four runs is a season-high, and they came at the beginning and at the end.

Down 1-0 headed to the bottom of the first, Coupeville got lucky, then made dang sure that luck held up.

Freshman Hawthorne Wolfe rifled a one-out shot into deep left, bouncing the ball off a Falcon glove, before motoring into second thanks to the error.

If he got a little help, the next hitter, senior Jake Pease, needed none.

Picking his pitch, he crushed the ball into the gap between right field and center, the ball crashing hard to the Earth for an RBI double and causing CHS coach Chris Smith to jump a solid five feet in the air, fists pumping.

The Wolves didn’t stop there, either, as Pease moved to third on a passed ball, then bolted for home when another throw evaded the Falcon catcher.

The throw was close, but Pease was quick, on target, and agile enough to get under the tag by a sizable margin, putting his squad ahead.

CHS almost pulled off the same play a pitch or two later, but this time the Falcons recovered fast enough to nail Dane Lucero at the plate as he tried to scamper home on yet another passed ball.

From there the game became a war of attrition, with neither squad able to pull away.

South Whidbey pushed a run across in the second to knot things up, then snatched the lead in the fourth on an RBI double of its own.

But the damage could have been worse.

Wolfe came up huge, ending the inning, and snuffing the rally, by kicking off a fiery double-play.

Sprinting across center field, the fab frosh yanked down a long fly ball for out #2, then spun and nailed a Falcon straying off the bag at second base for out #3.

The play drew a huge roar from the biggest crowd Coupeville baseball has drawn all season, but it was just one of many quality defensive gems for the Wolves.

CHS catcher Gavin Knoblich threw out two would-be base-stealers, delivering lightning bolts which zipped across the field, landing square in the waiting mitt of second-baseman Daniel Olson.

The throws were flawless, even though one almost took out Hilborn, who dropped down on the mound a little later than normal, and the tags were applied with precision.

“Oh, I liked those,” Chris Smith said afterwards. “I liked those a lot.”

When his defense wasn’t stepping up, Hilborn was rearing back and firing BB’s, whiffing six and keeping the Falcons at bay.

And yet, as well as the Wolves were playing, they were still losing.

It would have been an honorable loss, full of small “moral victories,” yes, but another loss in a season chock full of them.

Except Mike Etzell’s beard was itching to get clipped, and the longtime diamond guru, clapping like a madman down in the first-base coach’s box, willed a miracle.

The bottom of the seventh, playing out under cloudy skies, will go down as one of the great moments in prairie diamond history.

It started with Olson lashing a lead-off single right back up the middle, the ball kicking wickedly, dirt flying everywhere.

And it only got better from there.

Knoblich made it two straight hits, launching a ball down the right field line.

The orb hung in the air for an eternity, debating whether it wanted to go foul or stay fair, then made the correct call, splashing down inside the line before kicking away from the madly charging outfielder.

With runners at the corners, Ulrik Wells, the longest and lankiest of all the Wolves, went low, dropping a bunt towards the third-base side.

With the Falcons intent on keeping Olson glued to third, that gave Wells, long legs churning, time to barrel across the bag at first with an infield single, and suddenly, the Falcons were in a very, very bad place.

Bases juiced, no one out, Wolf fans going berserk and Lady Luck about to play a key role.

Freshman Cody Roberts slapped a chopper back up the middle, and, for a moment, it seemed like the Falcons had won the mini-battle, if not yet the war.

Spoiler: they had not.

Rushing his throw while on the move, the Falcon fielder chucked the ball about 20 feet over his catcher’s head as Olson blew across the plate accompanied by his dad, Paul, bellowing like he had just won the lottery AND discovered he wouldn’t have to pay any taxes.

Give South Whidbey credit.

To a man the Falcons didn’t hang their heads, and immediately got that first out on the next batter, off a hard-hit come-backer to the mound which exploded off of Mason Grove’s bat.

But this dam was ready to bust, and Matt Hilborn was born to set off the TNT.

From the moment he stepped on the CHS diamond four years ago, he has been at the forefront of Wolf baseball.

No matter where his coaches have played him, and he has ended up at almost every position at some point, he has excelled, and he has done it with grace and quiet confidence.

Through good games and bad, through fun seasons and rough ones, Hilborn has upheld the tradition of guys like Hunter Smith, Jake Tumblin, and Brad Haslam.

Come hard every day, every play. Never back down. Ever.

He has received All-League honors. Team awards. Praise from his coaches. All justified.

But Hilborn has always seemed to me to be a self-contained player.

He never seems to be playing for personal glory, or for momentary cheers.

Instead, without fanfare or chest-beating, he’s played the long game, carving out his place in prairie diamond history.

A lot of this is a guess. I don’t know Matt away from the athletic field, have never spoken to him.

But I have watched his career unfold, across multiple sports, in games played in Coupeville and in far-flung rival outposts, and I believe Hilborn deserved the moment he got at a little before 6 PM Friday.

It was one swing, which produced a long, arcing cannon shot to deep center, a note-perfect sac fly which plated Wells, won a game and sent his teammates, his fans, and his support crew into pandemonium.

In a season of struggle, it was a nice grace note.

A win earned by a team which has never given up, capped by a moment for the scrap book from a young man who has fully earned the spotlight, even if he has never demanded it.

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Coupeville High School freshman Hawthorne Wolfe, circling a ball in an earlier game, cracked a single Wednesday at South Whidbey. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Seize the moment and build on it.

While they fell 8-3 at South Whidbey Wednesday, remaining win-less on the season, the Coupeville High School baseball squad exited rainy Langley with some positives.

For one, the Wolves, who have struggled mightily to push runs across, tied their season-best output, and did it by getting key hits at the right moment.

Also, while Coupeville is now 0-8 in North Sound Conference play, 0-12 overall, it once again pushed a strong team and made them play the full seven innings.

South Whidbey is off to the best start in program history at 13-1, and at 10-1 in league play sits just a half-game off of state power Cedar Park Christian (11-0, 13-1).

And yet, through the first two games of a three-game set (the series wraps Friday in Coupeville), the Wolves have been competitive with the Falcons.

Wednesday, CHS fell behind 7-0 after three innings, before scratching its way back into the game.

South Whidbey put two runs on the board in the bottom of the first, with the big blow coming off of Kody Newman’s bat, then tacked on five more in the third.

Using a mixture of hits, walks and a badly-timed Coupeville fielding error, the Falcons surged ahead and seemed on the verge of ten-running the Wolves.

But CHS starting pitcher Daniel Olson and reliever Jonny Carlson fought their way out of jams in the fourth and fifth, respectively, both stranding two runners and blanking the Falcons.

Olson induced a ground-out to end his final inning of work, while Carlson got a Falcon swinging to bring a close to his temporary problem.

Freshman Cody Roberts came on in the sixth to get an out, as Coupeville’s pitching trio matched up fairly well with Falcon hurlers Brent Batchelor and Drew Fry.

Coupeville had a shot at scoring way back in the first inning, but couldn’t quite come up with the magic touch.

Matt Hilborn led off the game with a single, but was thrown out on a steal attempt.

Bouncing right back, the Wolves put two more aboard in the inning, thanks to a Jake Pease walk and a Dane Lucero single, only to come up short when Falcon catcher Dexter Jokinen pounced on a ball and threw the hitter out.

After not getting much of anything through the next two innings, Coupeville finally cracked the code, tossing a single run on the board in the fourth, fifth, and sixth.

The Wolves set the table by eking out walks, but for one of the rare times this season, came up with hits in crucial run-scoring opportunities.

Gavin Knoblich got the base-knock in the fourth, Hawthorne Wolfe in the fifth, and Hilborn in the sixth.

It was an especially strong day for the Wolf senior, as Hilborn reached base all four times he stepped to the plate, singling twice and walking twice.

Coupeville entered the day having scored just two runs across four games in April, and was sitting with 10 runs in its first 11 games.

The three-run outburst tied the Wolves showing against Cedar Park back on Mar. 20.

The Wolves and Falcons wrap their series Friday, with Hilborn slated to take the mound for Coupeville. First pitch is 4 PM.

After that, CHS closes the regular season with three-game sets against Sultan (0-7, 0-12) and Granite Falls (1-6, 3-9), with two of three at home in both series.

With four of six NSC teams making the playoffs, there’s a huge gap between the top two teams — CPC and South Whidbey — and everyone else.

King’s (4-4, 5-8) is semi-comfortable in third-place currently, but with seven games left to play, Coupeville could still finish anywhere from third to sixth.

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Shane Losey comes up firing at third, zipping his throw between the pesky raindrops. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Hawthorne Wolfe sends the baseball back in the direction from which it arrived.

Wolf catcher Gavin Knoblich dares someone to run on him.

The rain falls mainly on the plain … except when it falls on the lens.

Battling the elements Monday, enterprising paparazzi John Fisken managed to keep his cameras clicking between the raindrops, and the pics above are courtesy him.

To see everything he shot, pop over to:

https://www.johnsphotos.net/Sports/Coupeville-baseball-2018-2019/BB-2019-04-08-vs-South-Whidbey/

And remember, a percentage of any purchases goes to help fund scholarships for CHS senior student/athletes.

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