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Sophomore hurler Daniel Olson struck out seven in five innings Monday as Coupeville won its fifth-straight game and clinched a playoff berth. (Photo by Karen Carlson)

Mission: accomplished.

At least the first part of the mission, that is.

Never losing faith after an 0-12 start to the season, the Coupeville High School baseball squad has bounced back to win five straight and clinch a playoff berth.

The latest victory came Monday afternoon, as the Wolves dodged rain drops and visiting Granite Falls to nab a 6-5 win in extra innings.

When Matt Hilborn’s RBI single in the bottom of the eighth plated Mason Grove, it all came together for CHS.

Now 5-8 in North Sound Conference play, 5-12 overall, the Wolves clinch their league’s #4 playoff seed and are guaranteed a trip to bi-districts.

They’ll join Cedar Park Christian (12-1, 16-2), South Whidbey (11-2, 16-2), and King’s (7-5, 8-9), while Granite Falls (2-11, 4-14) and Sultan (1-11, 1-16) get no postseason love this spring.

The four NSC teams will clash with three teams from the Northwest Conference and two from the Emerald City League, with four of the nine advancing to state.

Coupeville, after wrapping up the regular season with two more games against Granite — Wednesday on the road and Friday at home on Senior Night — open bi-districts May 4 on a neutral field at Sehome High School.

Win at least one of two games that day, and the Wolves live to play again May 11.

To see the bi-district bracket, pop over to:

http://www.nscathletics.com/tournament.php?tournament_id=2913&sport=6

Monday’s game was a back-and-forth affair, with the teams exchanging leads several times, before treating fans to free baseball.

After Wolf starting pitcher Daniel Olson slipped out of a jam in the first inning, using the first of his seven strikeouts to muzzle the Tigers, Coupeville struck for two runs in the bottom of the frame.

Hilborn bashed a lead-off double, and Granite helped mightily, committing three of their eventual six errors in just a single inning.

The lead held up for a bit, even though Coupeville left a golden scoring opportunity unanswered in the bottom of the second inning.

The Wolves had a runner 90 feet away from pay-dirt after Shane Losey ripped a one-out triple, but the senior was left clamped to the bag as Granite’s pitcher wiggled away from danger like a worm evading a plunging hawk.

Sparked by their miracle escape, the visitors finally got their bats going, pinging shots to all fields as they piled up four runs during a third-inning rally.

But there was no break in the spirit of the Wolves, just a deep commitment to rallying time and again.

A two-run double off the bat of Ulrik Wells in the fourth inning knotted the game back up at 4-4, before CHS pushed a run across in the fifth to reclaim the lead.

The tie-breaker came courtesy singles from Hilborn and Hawthorne Wolfe and two more errors by the shaky Granite defense.

With their season hanging by a thread, the Tigers refused to go down easy, rallying for one last run in the top of the seventh to set up the nerve-wracking finale.

In the end, Coupeville punched its playoff ticket with a mix of grit, big plays and stellar work by young and old.

Freshman relief ace Cody Roberts stranded Granite’s go-ahead run at second base in the top of the eighth, closing things with a big strikeout before inducing an inning-ending ground-out.

Taking immediate advantage, the Wolves primed the stage with back-to-back walks by Grove and Losey, which brought Hilborn, once a bright-eyed youngster, but now a grizzled vet, to the plate.

Capping a four-hit day, the senior standout tattooed the ball out where Granite had no chance to make a play, sending himself and his team into the postseason.

Coupeville, which has been torrid at the plate during its winning streak, banged out nine hits on the afternoon.

Hilborn had a double and three singles to lead the way, while Losey (3B), Wells (2B), Bryce Payne (1B), Wolfe (1B), and Dane Lucero (1B) all added base-knocks.

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Mason Grove comes around to tap home Friday as Coupeville wins its fourth-straight game. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Wolves (l to r) Lucy Sandahl, Ashley Menges, and Lindsey Roberts drop by to cheer on their classmates.

CHS alumni Hope Lodell and Kyle Rockwell venture back onto school grounds.

Gavin Knoblich gets down with his bad self.

First-base coach Mike Etzell runs away to join the soccer team.

Heidi Roberts (left), Sarah Meyer (center), and Mckenzie Meyer get a little bit rowdy.

The Wolf brain trust ponders in-game strategy.

Spoiler: he said yes. Sandahl and Daniel Olson are Prom-bound.

The weather held up, and so did the cameras.

Despite some splatters of rain in the early going Friday, the Coupeville High School baseball squad was able to get a complete game in, waxing visiting Sultan 14-4.

And, despite having to dodge a bit of liquid sunshine, and deal with some mid-game wind, local paparazzi John Fisken was able to merrily snap away for the full 2.5 hours.

The photos above, a mix of in-game and out-of-game action, are courtesy him.

To see everything Fisken shot (and possibly purchase some glossies, while helping fund scholarships for CHS student/athletes), pop over to:

https://www.johnsphotos.net/Sports/Coupeville-baseball-2018-2019/BB-2019-04-19-vs-Sultan/

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Cody Roberts tossed 2+ innings of scoreless ball Wednesday in Sultan as Coupeville rolled to a third-straight win. (Photo by Karen Carlson)

What a difference a week makes.

Through the first 12 games of the season, the Coupeville High School baseball squad eked out just 13 runs, making life rough on its pitching staff.

And then the bats came alive. And how.

After drilling host Sultan 14-7 Wednesday, while pounding out 12 hits, the Wolves have rung up 31 runs on the scoreboard across their last three games.

Not surprisingly, that’s resulted in three straight wins.

It started with a major upset of high-flying South Whidbey, and now, after back-to-back wins over cellar dweller Sultan, Coupeville has risen to 3-8 in North Sound Conference play, 3-12 overall.

The Wolves, who wrap their series with the Turks Friday at home, have come off life support and now control the race for the fourth, and final, playoff berth from the NSC.

Wednesday, Coupeville jumped on Sultan early, running out to a 6-0 lead.

While the Turks eventually clawed back to within two runs twice, at 7-5 and 9-7, the Wolf hitters responded with a late surge, freshman reliever Cody Roberts tossed 2.1 innings of shutout ball, and the bus ride home was a happy one.

The Wolves opened the game by putting their first five hitters aboard, with four coming around to score.

Singles from Matt Hilborn, Hawthorne Wolfe and Gavin Knoblich, paired with a walk to Jake Pease and an error on a ball smashed to center by Dane Lucero proved to be a potent mix.

Lucero came back around in the second inning to pop a big double, pushing CHS out to its 6-0 lead, then, after a scoreless third, Coupeville tacked on a run in the fourth when Wolfe singled and scampered around the bases.

While the Wolves scored in six of seven innings, Sultan lumped its runs together, getting two in the third, three in the fourth, and a final two in the fifth.

But every time the pesky Turks surged, Coupeville beat them back.

With the lead trimmed to 7-5, the Wolves used singles from Knoblich, starting pitcher Daniel Olson, and Sage Sharp to increase the margin back to four runs.

Sultan scraped together two runs in the bottom of the fifth, once again cutting their deficit back to two runs, this time at 9-7, but Roberts, Coupeville’s third pitcher on the day, slammed the door shut.

Coming on in relief of Jonny Carlson, the Wolf frosh got his team out of a jam by inducing a ground-out to Hilborn at short.

Once in control of his own destiny, Roberts played dangerously, loading the bases in both the sixth and seventh innings, but never broke, twice escaping with big pitches.

He whiffed a Turk with the bags juiced to end the sixth, then punched out Sultan one final time in the seventh.

The Wolf hitters gave him a progressively bigger lead to work with, dropping in a single run in the top of the sixth, then using three singles and three walks to plate four more runs in their final at-bats.

Knoblich paced the torrid offense with three singles, while Pease walked three times.

Hilborn, Wolfe, and Olson had two base-knocks apiece, and Lucero, Sharp, and Ulrik Wells rounded out the attack with singles.

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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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Matt Hilborn struck out nine Cedar Park Christian batters in six innings Wednesday afternoon. (Karen Carlson photos)

Wolf catcher Gavin Knoblich was a rock behind the plate, while also collecting one of Coupeville’s three hits.

Movie buffs will tell you it’s a simple truth.

You can push King Kong around, harass him, pester him, think you have him exactly where you want him, and then, in the blink of an eye, the beast is liable to break free and pop you like a ripe grape.

And so it went for the Coupeville High School baseball squad, which played visiting Cedar Park Christian dead even for six innings Wednesday, only to get squashed in the game’s final frame.

Tied 3-3 heading into the seventh against the North Sound Conference’s biggest, baddest diamond team, the Wolves were primed for an upset of gargantuan proportions.

But it wasn’t to be, as pitch count limits plucked Coupeville ace Matt Hilborn from the mound, and the Eagles promptly savaged the inexperienced Wolf bullpen to claim a 12-3 win.

The loss drops the rebuilding Wolves to 0-2 in league play, 0-4 overall.

The teams, who tangled Monday with CPC winning 10-0, wrap up their season series Friday in Redmond.

Sophomore Daniel Olson, who celebrated his 16th birthday Wednesday by crunching a two-run RBI single, will get the ball in the finale.

After a brief bit of trouble in the top of the first, Hilborn was at his best while facing a powerhouse squad which boasts back-to-back runs to the state tourney semifinals.

The Eagles, as deep and talented as any team Coupeville is likely to face this season, pushed a pair of runs across in the opening frame, only to be denied any more by a bang-bang double play.

With a runner breaking to second on an attempted steal, Hilborn induced the batter to shoot a soft liner back to the mound.

The Wolf senior calmly speared the incoming ball, turned, took a measured step or two towards first-baseman Dane Lucero, then doubled off the wayward runner.

The first inning, when he surrendered a double to right and a two-run single to center, was the only inning in which Hilborn allowed more than a single runner on base at any time.

He sailed through three straight shut-out innings after the first frame, with a little help from catcher Gavin Knoblich, who gunned down a would-be stealer by a country mile.

Given a chance, the Wolf offense answered and reclaimed the lead for Hilborn.

After going three up and three down in the first two innings, Coupeville got a run back in the third, then shot ahead by plating two in the fourth.

Olson, who was my unofficial, but super-efficient, video store manager at David’s DVD Den when he was in kindergarten, had an especially strong day while dreaming of birthday cake under blazing blue skies.

He was the first Wolf to reach base, and the first to score, after scampering down the line as the CPC shortstop botched his chopper to lead off the bottom of the third inning.

Walks to Bryce Payne and Hawthorne Wolfe juiced the bags, before Olson was waved home after the field ump called a balk on a botched pick-off play at first.

While the Eagles escaped after that, thanks to a strikeout and a pop-up snagged in foul territory, the game remained a nail-biter.

Lucero made an especially impressive defensive play as well, chasing down a foul ball behind first base while hurtling within a whisper of entangling himself in the net.

Perhaps sparked by that, or by Hilborn’s calm demeanor on the mound, Coupeville snatched the lead in the bottom of the fourth.

Collecting all three of their hits on the afternoon in one unbroken streak, the Wolves started things with a lil’ flare off the bat of lanky right fielder Ulrik Wells.

The ball skittered off his bat, looped through the surprisingly warm air, then somehow split three defenders converging between the mound and first base.

Against all odds, the orb made it down to the ground, evading all three mitts, and Wells, taking long strides, found himself perched on the bag as CHS coach Chris Smith yelled “Yeah, baby!!” from across the diamond.

Knoblich followed his mate with a smash deep into the hole at short for hit #2, before Olson lofted a gorgeous liner which splashed down into center, giving both of his teammates ample time to hurry home.

Up 3-2, the Wolves put runners at second and third with one out, Olson accompanied by Payne, who eked out another walk, only to have CPC slip away one more time.

The Eagles knotted the game back up with a two-out RBI single in the fifth, with both pitching staffs matching goose eggs after that until the seventh.

Hilborn went out strong, stranding a runner at first in the sixth, rearing back to toss his ninth strikeout before getting a pair of pop-ups.

His velocity might have been down a bit at that point, but he was still gunnin’. Then, enter the state, and exit Hilborn.

Pitch counts, which were instituted to prevent overuse of young hurlers, are the law of the land in Washington state, so it was off to shortstop for Coupeville’s starting ace.

With Lucero having used up his pitches Monday, and Olson slated to start Friday, Chris Smith went to his bullpen, which is very much a work in progress, featuring two freshmen and a varsity newcomer.

Wolfe, Cody Roberts, and Jonny Carlson combined to face 13 hitters in the seventh, and were stung by Cedar Park’s state tourney-tested hitters.

A pair of doubles to deep center, which combined to plate five runners, were killers, but Coupeville’s next gen hurlers did get all three of the inning’s outs by strikeout.

Roberts whiffed one, while Carlson gunned down two of the four hitters he faced.

With a tie ball game suddenly turned into a rout, Smith used the seventh to get some game action for some of his other role players, with Andrew Score pinch-hitting and Gavin Straub pinch-running.

Score, playing in front of older brother, and former Wolf first-baseman Kory, launched a long, arcing fly to center which required the Eagle fielder to take off sprinting before making a pretty sweet catch.

Ever the philosophical coach, Smith talked to his players about the big picture after the game, and had praise for both his veteran hurler, and his younger guys.

Matt pitched a gem of a game, and against a very good hitting team,” Smith said. “He gave us all he could, six great innings, and I’m very happy with his performance out there.

Daniel delivered a huge hit for us; that was beautiful,” he added. “He’s been getting the bat on the ball really well lately, which is why we moved him up in the lineup. It really paid off.”

While Smith wants wins, having his squad, which lost eight seniors to graduation, be able to compete with a team which has valid dreams of winning a state title, is a big first step.

“We want to make them earn it, and we did,” he said. “We need to keep working on our offense, but we’re going in the right direction.

“As long as we keep making sure they have to earn everything, I’m pleased.”

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