Posts Tagged ‘Dane Lucero’

Jake Pease beats the tag Friday as Coupeville drills Granite Falls 8-1. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

It’s been like two seasons wrapped in one.

The 2019 campaign has been an unusual one for the Coupeville High School baseball team.

Having lost eight seniors, the new-look Wolves struggled to mount a consistent offensive attack in the early going this spring, scoring just 13 runs while starting the season 0-12.

And then something clicked.

After an 8-1 win Friday over visiting Granite Falls, Coupeville heads to the playoffs on a seven-game winning streak.

During that torrid stretch, the Wolves have plated 66 runners, ultimately cost arch-rival South Whidbey a chance to win a league title, and swept three-game series from Sultan and Granite.

The win which started the redemption arc, a 4-3 shocker over their next-door neighbors, proved to be huge.

If South Whidbey had won that Island rivalry game, it would have entered Friday guaranteed of earning at least a tie for the North Sound Conference pennant with Cedar Park Christian.

Instead, the Falcons faced a winner-takes-all finale in Bothell, and CPC pulled out a 5-4 win thanks to a sixth-inning three-run pinch-hit home run.

Cedar Park, which has been to the state semifinals two years running, finishes 13-2 in league play, while South Whidbey is 12-3.

Coupeville, the hottest team in the conference at the moment, wraps at 7-8 in league action, 7-12 overall, and heads to the playoffs as the #4 NSC team.

The Wolves open the double-elimination bi-district tourney May 4 with a game against Meridian at Sehome High School. Win or lose, CHS plays a second game that afternoon.

But that’s still a week away, and Friday the focus was on honoring Coupeville’s seniors — Bryce Payne, Shane Losey, Jake Pease, Matt Hilborn, and Dane Lucero — while finishing the regular season on a strong note.

Both missions accomplished.

The Wolves jumped on Granite right away, sending 11 hitters to the plate in the bottom of the first inning and bringing six of them around to score.

Three walks, with Hilborn and Gavin Knoblich being plunked, set the table, but it was Coupeville’s bats which did the most damage.

Six singles, accounting for 60% of Coupeville’s hits on the day, sent runners scrambling and Granite coaches to weeping silently in their dugout.

Hawthorne Wolfe started the hit parade, and then Pease, Ulrik Wells, Payne, Losey, and Hilborn (in his second at-bat of the inning) all collected base-knocks.

After the early run-fest, Coupeville didn’t need much more, but it did tack on a run in the second, on a Daniel Olson sacrifice bunt, and a final score in the sixth, on an RBI single off the bat of Pease.

The senior starter led the way with three hits in his home swan song, while Hilborn banged out a pair of singles.

Olson, Wolfe, Payne, Wells, and Losey also had hits, Lucero walked three times and a game after smashing up his face during a collision in the outfield, Mason Grove returned to eke out a walk.

While Coupeville pounded the ball to all fields, Granite had no answers for Wolf hurler Hilborn, who came two outs away from tossing a no-hitter.

He finally got touched in the seventh, giving up a one-out double, but was otherwise in control all game, whiffing eight and walking just a single batter.

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CHS freshman pitcher Cody Roberts (left) and head baseball coach Chris Smith survey the action in a recent game. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

After awhile, the games start to blur together into a familiar pattern.

The Coupeville High School baseball squad — young, hungry and scrappy — hangs with more-seasoned teams three, sometimes four or five, innings.

But, ultimately, a season-long offensive funk makes life tough, and when you’re hanging by a thread all the time, any mistakes are greatly magnified.

It’s a scenario which played out one more time Monday afternoon, as visiting South Whidbey rode a 2-hit, 14-strikeout performance from pitcher Ethan Petty to send Coupeville to a 12-0 loss.

The Island rivalry rumble, the first in a three-game set this week between teams headed in opposite directions, drops the Wolves to 0-7 in North Sound Conference play, 0-11 overall.

South Whidbey, which is a half step behind Cedar Park Christian in the battle for a league title, improves to 9-1 in league, 12-1 overall.

That’s the best start in program history.

Monday’s game, which played out partially in a driving rainstorm, was just 3-0 through four innings, but even then, it was largely a one-sided affair.

Petty retired the first 11 Wolf hitters, whiffing nine of them, and wasn’t touched until CHS pitcher Dane Lucero looped a two-out single which dropped in over the head of a backpedaling Falcon infielder.

The Falcon junior slightly raised an eyebrow at seeing his perfect game go bye-bye, then immediately rebounded with strikeout #10, effectively ending any hopes the Wolves might have had.

With a little help from catcher Dexter Jokinen and shortstop Kody Newman, Petty gunned down nine straight batters after Lucero’s base-knock.

Newman went to his knees to spear a liner off of Daniel Olson’s bat, while Jokinen threw off his mask and scrambled to haul in a high, arcing Bryce Payne foul ball right in front of the chain link fence.

Down to their final out, the Wolves finally put their second runner aboard, when CHS catcher Gavin Knoblich beat out an infield chopper for a single.

But that was it for Coupeville — two hits spaced far apart, no walks, and little offensive momentum.

Lucero kept his team in the game for the first hour, scattering hits and coming up big to blunt Falcon rallies in the second and fourth inning.

South Whidbey got the only run it would need when first-baseman Brent Batchelor tore the hide off the ball with a booming RBI single to left in the top of the first.

The Falcons picked up two more runs in the third, courtesy a bases-loaded walk and an RBI ground-out, but it could have been worse.

Twice, Lucero danced with the devil in the pale moonlight and lived to tell about it, escaping identical jams.

He had runners at second and third with two outs in both the second and fourth, but coaxed a fly-out to center-fielder Hawthorne Wolfe to end the first trouble, and a ground-out to Shane Losey to snuff the second.

The dam finally broke in the top of the fifth, as the Falcons jumped on a rash of Coupeville errors to plate four more runs.

South Whidbey tacked on yet another five across the final two innings against the Wolf bullpen, but there were a few bright spots for Coupeville in the late going.

Wolfe, who made solid contact at the plate in all three of his appearances and was the lone CHS player to not whiff, had a nice over-the-shoulder snag while on the run in center.

His fellow freshman, pitcher Cody Roberts, picked up the other two outs in the seventh inning by flinging strikeouts.

The final out came on a nasty slider which dove with an unexpected ferocity, causing the Falcon slugger to rip out most of his back muscles in a vain attempt to catch up with the pitch.

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Coupeville’s Shane Losey thumped a double Wednesday, while also making several strong catches in center field. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Jonny Carlson tossed 1.2 innings of scoreless relief during a narrow 3-2 loss to King’s.

Missed it … by that much.

The Coupeville High School baseball squad put King’s on the ropes Wednesday, but couldn’t quite land the knockout punch.

The Wolves, who have struggled mightily on offense all season, rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh, but stranded the tying run at first base and fell 3-2 to the visiting Knights.

Despite putting together a seven-hit assault, one of its best showings of the season, Coupeville falls to 0-5 in North Sound Conference play, 0-9 overall.

That leaves CHS in a tie with Granite Falls (0-5, 2-8), a half-game behind Sultan (0-4, 0-9) for the fourth, and final NSC playoff berth.

Cedar Park Christian (8-0, 10-1), South Whidbey (6-1, 9-1), and King’s (3-2, 4-6) hold down the top three slots in a jumbled-up race.

While the rebuilding Wolves have been blown out at times this season, they have played the Knights strongly through the first two bouts in their three-game season series.

The schools wrap up things Friday in Shoreline, and if Coupeville plays like it did Wednesday, it’s very reasonable to think it could finally break through and nab that elusive first victory.

Other than a miscue here or there, the Wolves were solid on their home diamond, with pitchers Dane Lucero, Jonny Carlson, and Cody Roberts teaming to hold King’s largely in check.

Coupeville put runners aboard all game, but kept on missing on that one big hit which would have cracked things open.

Then they came 99.2% of the way to getting the job done in a wild seventh inning.

And it all started with Coupeville down to its final out, and not a base runner in sight.

After a strikeout and a little nubber in front of the plate scooped up by an alert King’s catcher, the Wolves looked like they were headed to another shutout.

With one out to go, a goose egg would have left Coupeville having scored just eight runs across nine games.

But Shane Losey was having none of that.

The Wolf senior whacked a liner to left which tore into the outfield grass and shot high in the air, allowing him time to tear round the base-paths and slide into second base in a cloud of dust mixed with reborn hope.

Matt Hilborn followed with an infield single, busting a gut to beat the throw by a step, then stole second to set up sophomore slugger Daniel Olson for his spotlight moment.

The teen who always hijacked my computer at David’s DVD Den back when he was a kindergartner was ready, poking a ball into the gap between second and first.

While the Knights first-baseman got to the ball, no one was covering the bag, allowing Olson to screech into first unimpeded, while both of his veteran teammates came around to score in the madness and confusion.

With hard-thumping third-baseman Jake Pease strolling to the plate, popping his muscles and squeezing the life out of his bat, the moment had fairy tale ending written all over it.

It wasn’t to be on this day, however, as the King’s shortstop came up with a big play on a hot grounder, going into the hole and popping back up to make the long game-ending throw.

While the final score came up just short of what Coupeville was hoping for, the game was a huge step forward for the Wolves.

Even when they weren’t scoring in the early innings, they had King’s coaches on edge.

The Wolves had base-runners aboard in four of the first six innings, but the Knights dodged danger time and again.

It started in the bottom of the first, when back-to-back base-knocks by Pease and Lucero gave CHS a golden two-out opportunity, only to see a ground-out prematurely end things.

After going down 1-2-3 in the second and third, the Wolves got a booming two-bagger in the fourth from Lucero, who launched a moon ball which hit just inside the right field line, then skipped merrily away from the charging fielder.

But two strong King’s defensive plays later and Coupeville exited with its starting hurler still camped at second.

It was a recurring theme, as Bryce Payne and Hilborn walked in the fifth, but were stranded, before Pease singled and Lucero walked in the sixth, only to be denied thanks to a slick double play.

While the Wolves came close but couldn’t break through, King’s put two runs on the board in the first and tacked on another in the third.

The opening frame especially hurt, as CHS looked ready to escape unscathed.

After an opening walk, Lucero bounced back to whiff the next hitter, then Gavin Knoblich nailed a would-be base-thief, the first of two punch-outs by the Wolf catcher.

With the bases un-juiced, things were looking peachy, until King’s responded with consecutive base-knocks and took advantage of a throw which sailed over its intended recipient.

The third run came via three singles, but the damage was muted when Losey closed the third inning by making a superb snag on a long fly while running full tilt.

Lucero kept King’s at bay in the fourth and fifth, before pitch count limits moved him across the diamond to man first base.

In his stead, Carlson and Roberts teamed up to deliver another pair of flawless innings.

Carlson retired five of the seven hitters he faced, before his freshman teammate came in to end King’s last scoring chance on a bases-loaded strikeout.

Coupeville spread its hits among five players, with Lucero (2B, 1B), Pease (1B, 1B), Losey (2B), Olson (1B) and Hilborn (1B) all collecting base-knocks.

Payne, Hilborn, and Lucero each walked, with Knoblich, Gavin Straub, Mason Grove, Sage Sharp, and Ulrik Wells all shining on defense.

Wells had a super-smooth snag on a liner at first to rob King’s of a hit, while Grove hauled in several long blasts while working way out in the weeds in left.

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Matt Hilborn had Coupeville’s lone hit Monday in a loss to Chimacum. (Photo by Karen Carlson)

The bats need to wake up.

The Coupeville High School baseball team has put together solid stretches of pitching this season, played some inspired defense, and are nailing most of the intangibles.

But the Wolves just can’t score.

After a closer than it probably sounds 7-1 non-conference home loss Monday to Chimacum, Coupeville has the same number of losses as runs scored this season.

That number is six, and when you average a run per game, it’s not especially surprising to be sitting at 0-6.

“We have solid hitters, but the bats are just sleeping right now,” said CHS coach Chris Smith.

“I always say, if you can score seven runs, you’re probably going to win at least 75% of your games at the high school level,” he added. “Score one run and…”

He trailed off then, as the rain drops began to fall on the prairie, before immediately bouncing back with his customary high energy and positive attitude.

Talk of getting a chicken and reenacting a Major League-style curse breaker on his player’s bats brought a smile to Smith’s face and a chuckle from his assistant coaches.

And it’s true.

While Coupeville is still adapting to having lost eight seniors to graduation after a 15-6 season, this year’s roster does have players with pop in their bats, such as Matt Hilborn, Jake Pease, and Dane Lucero.

And there were multiple times Monday when it seemed the Wolves were about to break through, about to crack things open against their former league rivals.

But, it wasn’t to be, as a few few timely hits from Chimacum’s bottom of the order hitters fractured a pitcher’s duel.

“That’s the kind of timeliness of hitting we’re looking for over here,” Smith said. “We did a nice job with our bunt game today; our “small ball” game is really working, but we just haven’t been getting the kind of big hits we need.”

After both teams pushed across a run in their half of the first inning, the teams carried that 1-1 tie all the way until the top of the fifth.

Chimacum got on the board first, thanks to a two-out error on a high, arcing ball which banged off a retreating infielder’s glove as it plunged down into no man’s land between second base and center field.

Given new life, the Cowboys plated their runner with a steal followed by a sharp RBI single back up the middle.

Coupeville promptly answered, with Hilborn walking, taking second on an impeccable sacrifice bunt from Hawthorne Wolfe, then coming around to score after the Cowboy catcher airmailed a throw into center on a botched pick-off.

Lucero was humming on the mound, whiffing six through the first four innings, while getting a bit of help from his defense.

Mason Grove, making his first start of the season at catcher in place of Gavin Knoblich, who was out of state at his grandparent’s 45th wedding anniversary celebration, came up big in the third.

Popping up from behind the plate, Grove whipped a strike down the line to Pease at third base to nail a Cowboy who mistakenly thought he might steal the bag.

Mason going in to play at what is a big, big position, I thought he handled himself well,” Smith said. “I’m proud of how he played out there.”

Grove’s sniper act was immediately followed by Daniel Olson making a superb stab on a ball hit deep into the hole at second, then spinning and flicking the ball to Wolf first-baseman Ulrik Wells for the wham-bam out.

But, while Lucero and Co. were stifling the Chimacum bats, the same thing was happening on the other side of things.

Coupeville’s one, and only hit of the day, came when Hilborn beat out an infield single in the bottom of the fifth.

It could have been his second base-knock, but one at-bat before he had been brutally denied by the same ump.

Missing his seeing-eye dog, the man in blue was the only person in the stadium to believe the Chimacum first-baseman tagged Hilborn as he shot by trying to beat out another infield chopper.

Unable to generate much offense, Coupeville hung tough until the fifth, when one well-placed hit, and some luck, let the Cowboys crack the game open.

Two of the three Chimacum hitters to reach base in the inning did so thanks to judgement calls in which the ump felt the Cowboy hitter beat the throw to first by a (very small) hair.

The third hit was legitimate, though, a rocket to right which capped a game-busting three-run rally.

Lucero closed strongly, coming back to notch strikeouts #7 and #8, with the first one coming after the Wolf hurler dug himself into a 3-0 hole on the count.

Chimacum added another three-spot on the scoreboard in the sixth to ice things, but Lucero and freshman reliever Cody Roberts, who tossed 1.2 innings of scoreless ball, made the Cowboys work for everything.

Olson gave a big helping hand to Roberts, pulling off a double play to end the sixth.

The sophomore second-bagger slid to his left to spear a liner, then doubled a straying Chimacum runner off of first to slam the door shut.

While Coupeville only had the one hit, it did put runners on base almost every inning, thanks to six walks.

Shane Losey scampered to first base twice after winning a battle of wills with Cowboy hurlers, while Hilborn, Pease, Lucero, and Bryce Payne each walked once.

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Hawthorne Wolfe (second from right) collected one of five hits Friday for a Coupeville baseball squad coached by Chris Smith (middle). (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

After being forced to postpone its season opener Tuesday with 10 of 16 players out sick, just getting on the field Friday was an accomplishment for the Coupeville High School baseball squad.

Once there, a young Wolf squad, which played three freshmen, starting two, out-hit host Lynden Christian, but were undone by errors in a 2-1 non-league loss.

“All things considered, not bad, but we kind of gave it to them,” said CHS coach Chris Smith.

Coupeville gets a chance to bounce right back, hosting Overlake at 1 PM Saturday in another non-conference rumble.

Friday afternoon, the Wolves jumped on their hosts quickly, plating their only run in the first inning, then having a chance to break things open in the second.

The first run of the season came courtesy back-to-back two-out base-knocks from seniors Jake Pease and Dane Lucero.

That would be the only run for the Wolves, however, as Lynden’s pitcher ended the first inning with a strikeout, before escaping a jam in the top of the second.

In that inning, CHS loaded the bases with just one out, as Mason Grove and Sage Sharp walked, followed by Daniel Olson rapping a single.

With the top of the order coming to the plate, the stage seemed set for the Wolves to go bonkers on the Lyncs, but it wasn’t to be on this day.

A strikeout, followed by a ground-out to second shut down the rally, while kicking off a run of 10 straight outs by Wolf hitters.

Coupeville didn’t break the cold streak at the plate until the fifth inning, when freshman Hawthorne Wolfe punched his first high school hit.

A fly-out to center left him stranded, however, and a potential rally in the sixth, sparked by a Lucero walk and an Ulrik Wells single, ended suddenly and savagely with three straight strike-outs.

Lynden only scraped out a single base hit against Coupeville hurlers Lucero, Wolfe and Matt Hilborn, and it went nowhere.

But the Lyncs benefited from some Wolf stumbles, turning three walks and two errors into their only two runs in the bottom of the second inning.

Coupeville finished with four errors on the afternoon.

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