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Posts Tagged ‘Hunter Smith’

   Coupeville High School baseball coach Chris Smith surveys the field in Tacoma Saturday afternoon. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

   The Wolves were eliminated from the playoffs a game short of state, but, at 15-6, had their best season in more than a decade.

One trip too many.

Making its third trip to the wilds of Tacoma in a five-day span, the Coupeville High School baseball squad finally ran out of steam.

Despite playing error-free ball and getting strong work on the mound from Hunter Smith and Dane Lucero, the Wolves fell 8-3 Saturday to Charles Wright Academy and were eliminated from the district playoffs.

CWA, which rebounded to win two straight after being drilled 10-0 by CHS in the opening game of districts, joins Bellevue Christian in advancing to the state tourney.

The Tarriers may have beat the Wolves, but they have their work cut out for them next weekend, facing last year’s 1A state runner-ups, Cedar Park Christian (Bothell).

The loss drops Coupeville’s final record to 15-6, which is still the best mark the program has achieved in more than a decade.

The Wolves, who won their second Olympic League title in three years, had at least one runner on in five of seven innings, but couldn’t land the KO punch to CWA hurler Blake Nygren.

The Tarrier junior gave up two-out singles to Smith in the first and Jake Pease in the second, but squirmed away unharmed both times.

Smith was more than matching him, blowing through the first six CWA hitters.

The game took a turn in the top of the third, however, as Charles Wright connected on a lead-off double, then delivered four straight two-out hits, plating three runners.

Coupeville got one back in the bottom of the inning, thanks to Nick Etzell being plunked by a pitch, then coming around to score on a two-out RBI single off of Smith’s bat.

That base-knock was the last time the Wolves would touch Nygren for some time, though, as CHS went 11 batters between base-hits.

Other than Pease wearing a pitch in the fourth, Coupeville got nothing going offensively in the fourth through sixth.

The same wasn’t true for CWA, however, as the Tarriers, after going meekly in the fourth and fifth, found their groove in the top of the sixth.

Using a mix of well-placed hits and walks, Charles Wright tacked on five runs to turn a 3-1 nail-biter into an 8-1 romp.

Dane Lucero came on in relief of Smith, who whiffed seven, and got the Wolves out of the sixth, then pitched the seventh.

The CHS junior retired four of the five hitters he faced, surrendering just a walk.

Down to their final outs, the Wolves showed the never-say-die attitude which marked their entire season.

Senior Jake Hoagland led off with a single, Coupeville’s first hit since Smith’s RBI single back in the third, then scored when Pease reached on an error.

The final run of the season came courtesy senior second-baseman Nick Etzell, who lofted a sac fly.

That was it for the Wolves, however, with their turbo-charged run coming to an end on a ground-out to third.

CWA out-hit Coupeville 9-4 on the afternoon, and the Tarriers had four extra-base hits while the Wolves were limited to singles.

Smith delivered two of those, with Pease and Hoagland adding the other base-knocks.

CHS, which joins the new North Sound Conference next year, had a great run under coach Chris Smith, who was in his first full season running the program.

Three of the Wolves four regular-season losses were by a single run, with two of those coming to 2A schools. They also were a perfect 8-0 at home.

That was one prairie win for every senior on the roster, as Coupeville graduates Smith, Etzell, Hoagland, Julian Welling, Joey Lippo, James Vidoni, Kyle Rockwell and Jacob Zettle.

The cupboard is far from bare though, as the Wolves can return current juniors Lucero, Pease, Matt Hilborn and Shane Losey, as well as sophomores Gavin Knoblich and Jered Brown.

Freshman Daniel Olson made his varsity pitching debut in the league-clinching game, while junior Ty Eck was on the opening day varsity roster before a nagging football injury prevented him from playing.

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   Jake Pease crunched a pair of hits Tuesday as Coupeville thrashed Charles Wright 10-0 to open the playoffs. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The old streak is dead. Long live the new streak.

Jumping aggressively on Charles Wright Academy early, and never letting up, the Coupeville High School baseball squad rolled to a 10-0 win Tuesday in its district playoff opener.

The win, coming on a neutral field at Foss High School, snaps a five-game playoff losing streak for the Wolves and puts them a game away from punching their ticket to state.

Coupeville, which is 15-4 and has won 12 of its last 13 games, travels to Charles Wright Academy Thursday to face Bellevue Christian in the West Central District 3 title game.

The Vikings, the #1 seed out of the Nisqually League, drilled Chimacum 13-1 Tuesday and are 12-6 on the season.

After knocking off CWA, the Wolves now have two shots to advance to state for the first time since 2014.

Beat BC Thursday and it’s a done deal.

Lose Thursday and CHS heads to Curtis High School Saturday for a winner-to-state, loser-goes-home 2nd place bout.

That game would pit the Wolves against the survivor of Thursday’s Chimacum vs. CWA game.

For the moment, though, that’s all ahead and the focus is strictly on the Wolves breaking through and writing a different tale in the playoffs.

After winning four of five playoff games to start the 2014 postseason, Coupeville had dropped its last five under three different coaches.

CHS was eliminated 2-1 by Rochester in the first round of state in ’14, then fell 1-0 to Cascade Christian at districts in 2015, the final game of Willie Smith’s stellar, two-decades career as ball coach.

Marc Aparicio’s squad fell 13-0 to Cascade Christian and 6-1 to Seattle Christian in his one full season at the helm in 2016.

Current coach Chris Smith lost 2-1 to Bellevue Christian after taking over midway through the 2017 season, but evened his playoff record Tuesday afternoon.

“We were loving it!,” the jubilant coach said. “The guys were hunting big game.”

Coupeville dominated in every facet of the game, outhitting the Tarriers 11-4, playing error-free ball in the field and getting a concise, powerful performance from starting hurler Hunter Smith.

The senior staff ace used just 76 pitches across six innings, whiffing five and never giving up more than one base-knock per inning.

The Wolves, on the other hand, came out swinging the big bats and never let up.

Matt Hilborn led off the game with a sharp single, and CHS plated four runs in the top of the first to effectively put the game on ice.

Hunter Smith launched a one-out triple to bring Hilborn around, then scampered home himself on an RBI single by Julian Welling.

Capping things off, Jake Pease, returning from an injury, followed a Dane Lucero single with a game-busting two-run double.

The Wolves pressed their advantage at the plate all afternoon, though Charles Wright managed to somehow escape the third inning unscathed even after surrendering three hits, including a moon shot of a double off of Welling’s bat.

CHS tacked on a run in the fourth, with Joey Lippo singling, swiping second and coming around on an error, then the Wolves closed things out with a bang in the sixth.

Nick Etzell, who, like Pease, is returning from an injury, kicked things off with a single.

After that came a string of walks, a nicely-hit two-run single from Lucero, then a bunch of jumpy moments for the Tarrier hurler.

Capping what was a truly awful day for the CWA program, the final run came home not on a hit or a walk, but on a balk that allowed Lucero to stroll in from third.

Coupeville spread its offense out, with eight different Wolves collecting a hit.

Welling and Pease led the way, with a single and double apiece, while Hunter Smith had his three-bagger and Lucero collected a pair of singles.

Hilborn, Lippo, Jake Hoagland and Etzell rounded out the hit parade with a base-knock apiece, while Kyle Rockwell and Gavin Knoblich chipped in with solid defense.

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   Matt Hilborn and Coupeville baseball stomped Port Townsend Wednesday, and have won 11 of their last 12 games. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

   Coupeville’s seniors went 8-0 at home this year. L to r, Hunter Smith, Jake Hoagland, Jacob Zettle, Kyle Rockwell, coach Chris Smith, Julian Welling, Joey Lippo, Nick Etzell, James Vidoni.

They love it when a plan comes together.

Other than a couple of bobbled balls in the field, the Coupeville High School baseball squad was on point Wednesday, closing the regular season with an emphatic win.

Coasting to a five-inning 11-0 thumping of visiting Port Townsend, the Wolves finished 8-1 in Olympic League play en route to their second conference title in three seasons.

Sitting at 14-4 overall, the Wolves have won seven straight and 11 of their last 12 games.

In the past decade, only one CHS hardball squad, the 2014 team which went to state, has won as many games in a single season.

That ’14 unit finished 14-11 and was eliminated by Rochester in the round of 16.

This year’s Wolves, who open the playoffs May 8 in Tacoma against Charles Wright Academy, came dangerously close to going 17-1, with three of their four losses by a single run.

Two of those defeats came to 2A schools.

Coupeville also finished a flawless 8-0 on its home diamond, with Wednesday’s win coming on a Senior Night in which eight Wolves were honored.

One of those 12th graders, Olympic League MVP-in-waiting Hunter Smith, closed out his home career in style.

Captain Cool tossed a six-strikeout no-hitter from the mound, then knocked in four runs while reaching base in all four of his plate appearances.

And, just to make sure local fans would really remember how amazingly consistent and explosive he has been over the past four years, Smith pulled off maybe the most stunning play of his career.

It came in the bottom of the first, after he had been plunked with a pitch.

A quick steal got Smith to second, a passed ball nudged him to third, and walks to Julian Welling and Dane Lucero juiced the bags and set the stage.

With Jake Hoagland at the plate, Smith, not betraying a single emotion on his carefully-crafted game face, edged down the base-path, teasing and tormenting the flustered RedHawk hurler.

He stepped backwards, for just a second, perhaps arched an eyebrow ever so slightly at coach/dad Chris Smith, who was bobbing in the third-base coaching box, and then … HOLY CRUD ON A FREAKIN’ STICK!!

Hunter Smith bolted down the line, a burst of fiery speed shining brighter than the blazing sun that was scorching the prairie.

Port Townsend’s bench screamed, Coupeville’s bench screamed twice as loud, and at least one Wolf parent fell out of their seat. Maybe more.

As Hoagland did a nimble backwards jump away from the plate at the last second, Captain Cool slid under the late tag, pulling off the most difficult play in baseball.

It was just one run, maybe, but, in that instant, he went from mere legend to mythic figure.

The kind of dude who can toss a no-hitter AND steal home on the same day, and make you imagine Matthew McConaughey leaning against a tree down the right field line, chewing on a wheat stalk, murmuring “alright, alright, alright, my man.”

If the game had been a movie script, that would have been the finale.

Instead, back in reality, the Wolves still had four innings to play and 10 more runs to score, so they got at it quickly.

The only base-runners Port Townsend could get aboard came thanks to a handful of errors by the normally sure-handed Wolf infielders.

They made up for the occasional bobble, however, such as in the top of the second, when Matt Hilborn triggered a bang-bang double play to erase a rare RedHawk base-runner.

Scooping up a bouncer at short, he didn’t have time to transfer the ball from glove to hand, so merely flipped it from his glove while on the run.

The ball plopped into Joey Lippo’s hand, the Wolf second-baseman spun and fired a dart to Welling at first, and presto, a “rally” spiked before it could begin.

With Smith humming on the mound, Coupeville tacked on five runs in the second, added two in the third and put a stamp on things with three more in the fourth.

The Wolves, being extremely patient at the plate, eked out a string of walks to set the table in the second, with a bases-loaded free pass to Smith making it 2-0.

After that, it was time for the big boppers to eat.

Welling smoked a two-run single to left, Lucero bopped an RBI single that dropped in front of a charging outfielder and Hoagland arced a long sac fly to cap things.

In the third, Coupeville got creative, with Nick Etzell pulling off an inspired bit of base-running.

Standing in for Wolf catcher Gavin Knoblich, who rapped a one-out single, Etzell, who hasn’t been able to play in the field in recent games as he rehabs a PE-related arm injury, made sure to get his bit of the spotlight.

After stealing second, minus his wrist guard after an over-zealous ump made him remove it, Etzell took third on a passed ball, then shot for home when another ball got away from the Port Townsend catcher.

Well, he shot for two steps, at least.

Unfortunately, the RedHawk backstop recovered the ball quicker than expected and seemed to have Etzell dead to rights.

Au contraire, mon frère.

Etzell faked back towards third, drew the throw, then narrowly missed snapping his own ankles as he spun on a dime, streaking home to beat the return throw.

From there the Wolves coasted home with Smith swatting an RBI single, before a bases-loaded walk to Lippo and a two-run single from Smith in the fourth wrapped the onslaught.

Knoblich and Smith paced the offense, each delivering a pair of base-knocks.

The win marked the final home game for Wolf seniors Kyle Rockwell, Jacob Zettle, James Vidoni, Lippo, Smith, Etzell, Hoagland and Welling.

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   Wolf catcher Gavin Knoblich had two hits Friday as Coupeville toppled Chimacum and moved closer to clinching an Olympic League title. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Captain Cool struck again.

Coupeville High School ace Hunter Smith wasn’t flawless Friday, but he was perfect when it mattered, and now Wolf baseball is a win away from claiming its second Olympic League title in three years.

Backed by stellar, error-free play from his defenders, especially infielders Joey Lippo, Matt Hilborn and Dane Lucero, Smith shut down Chimacum, tossing a complete-game 2-0 shut-out.

The win, Coupeville’s fifth-straight and ninth in its last 10 games, lifts the Wolves to 6-1 in league play, 12-4 overall.

CHS is a game up, with two to play, on the Cowboys (5-2, 7-8) and hold the tiebreaker, having taken two of three after pulling off back-to-back shut-outs at home against their chief rivals.

“I love the goose eggs, love ’em!,” said a jubilant Coupeville coach Chris Smith.

His squad needs just a single win (it travels to Klahowya Monday, then hosts Port Townsend May 2) or a single Chimacum loss to officially clinch the title, which they last won in 2016.

The Cowboys, who are enjoying their best run in the Olympic League after three consecutive third-place finishes, have pushed the Wolves hard this season.

The first two meetings between the teams were one-run games, and this time a two-run lead seemed almost decadent.

Having escaped a brief first-inning jam when Hunter Smith whiffed a Cowboy with runners at the corners, Coupeville struck for the game’s only blood in the bottom of the second.

Flying on a high, as Smith punched out the Cowboys one-two-three in the top half of the inning, the Wolves capitalized on a huge Chimacum error.

Jake Hoagland led off the bottom of the second by swatting a chopper to third, before taking off like a bat out of Hell.

Slightly juggling the ball as he plucked it off the ground while on the move, Chimacum’s third-baseman tried to set his feet. It didn’t work.

The Cowboy fielder double-pumped, triple-pumped, then fired the ball to the moon, pulling his first-baseman off the bag as Hoagland thundered by.

Given unexpected life, Coupeville took immediate advantage.

Jake Pease, who would later take a nasty hit to the arm on a wayward pitch, had a much-happier first at-bat, plunking a single.

That set up the urban legend himself, Kyle Rockwell, a mountain among men, a titan capable of swatting the ball into the cars in the parking lot, who … dropped a bunt.

And it was a beauty of a bunt, too, perfectly placed into no-man’s land behind Chimacum hurler Cole Dotson.

Unable to make a play on the ball, Chimacum could only watch in horror as Hoagland streaked home with the game’s first run.

Meanwhile, the man perched safely on first was busy penning yet another chapter in his on-going best-seller, “I Rock: The Kyle Rockwell Story.”

Wanting to give his pitcher a bit more of a cushion, Wolf catcher Gavin Knoblich followed with equal flair, delivering a ringing RBI single back up the middle to make it 2-0.

While Chimacum escaped total disaster in the inning by nailing not one, but two, Wolves coming in hot to third, the damage was done.

Being careful to not let a single emotion flicker across his face while on the mound, Hunter Smith made big brother CJ, who patented the Captain Cool look while winning the ’16 title, a proud assistant coach on the Wolf bench.

And, while the CHS hurler was touched a few times more than normal, scattering seven hits, he and his teammates always had an answer.

Lucero, subbing at first base, pulled two low throws out of the dirt, then Lippo decided to get all dramatic and crank the defensive volume to crowd-pleasing levels.

Chimacum had a runner at second with two outs in the fourth, and said runner bolted as a Cowboy hitter launched a shot that had base hit stamped all over it.

The ball seemed to be too high for Lippo to snag at second, and was dropping too fast for Hoagland to catch on the run.

Until all of Lippo’s extensive ballet training (not a joke) came into play, as the Wolf senior, hauling tail, threw his glove over his shoulder.

Pulling off some Inspector Gadget “Go-Go-Gadget” action, one glove-clad limb extended as far as possible, Lippo made contact with the falling orb, punched it skyward, then hauled it back in, cradling the ball to his chest.

The sound you heard at that exact moment may have been his dad, Joe, hitting octaves not normally heard outside of an opera house.

He’ll deny it, of course, but we know the truth.

With the Chimacum fans openly sobbing (again, they’ll deny it, but we know the truth) the game sailed along through the sixth inning stuck at 2-0.

The Cowboys had one final bit of fight in them, however, bashing a pair of singles to left to kick off the top of the sixth.

Gathering his men on the mound, Chris Smith said a few words, then gave his son a small nod.

Hunter’s return nod was, of course, even smaller. Can’t mess with the brand.

Hilborn, though, wrapped his arm around his pitcher’s shoulder before he headed back to short, and might have said a few words.

If so, they were most likely, “I got this, man.”

The ensuing pitch came flying back off the bat, took a spinning hop and skidded towards Hilborn, who boldly looked destiny in the eye and accepted her challenge.

Shooting to his left, he slammed his foot through the bag at second for the force, then laid the ball into Lucero’s glove at first.

Hilborn’s throw came in on a sharp line, then tailed off at the end, landing softly with just a gentle whisper of “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is.”

In 2.4 seconds (give or take one or two), Chimacum went from first and second and no one out to a lonely runner at third about to be stranded.

Slightly cocking one eyebrow — again, he has to stay on brand — Hunter Smith fired three straight strikes past the next Cowboy, buckling his knees an inch more with each fastball that exploded into Knoblich’s glove.

But, high school games go seven innings and not six, so while the air had been visibly punched out of the Cowboys, they still had the faintest flicker of hope left.

A one-out chopper that hit the fringe right in front of a charging Hilborn and skipped away presented Chimacum with its last, best hope in the seventh.

The Wolves would not be denied, though.

Rockwell, drifting way, way, way to his left while patrolling right field, tracked down a long foul ball, pulling it in for the second out.

That brought Issac Purser, Chimacum’s best player, to the plate, the last Cowboy standing.

Chimacum’s fans, prone to wailing (a lot), screamed and hollered and hooted and made a lot of bodily noises, then got really, really quiet as Purser punched a hole in the sky with a mile-high pop up.

Lippo, camped at second, had time to do his homework before the ball descended, but his glove was in place when it mattered.

Squeeze the ball, move within an inch of clinching the title. Mission, accomplished.

Knoblich, who has been a strong defensive player behind the plate this season, had his best offensive day, pacing the Wolves with two hits.

Hunter Smith added a pair of singles, while Pease and Rockwell rounded out the six-hit attack.

As he marinated in the moment, Chris Smith praised his team, top to bottom.

“We found a way to win once again,” he said with a slight chuckle. “It was a fun game and I’m very, very happy.

“Two shut-outs in a row against Chimacum, that’s huge. You know me, I absolutely LOVE those goose eggs!”

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   Careful pitch selection was key Monday, as Coupeville turned 12 walks into a 9-0 win at Friday Harbor. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Take what they give you.

Showing patience under pressure Monday, the Coupeville High School baseball squad walked its way to a blow-out win at Friday Harbor.

Turning 12 walks, and a handful of errors by their hosts, to their advantage, the Wolves cruised to a 9-0 win while only eking out four hits.

The non-conference victory, Coupeville’s third straight triumph and fourth in its last five games, lifts CHS to 6-3 on the season.

The Wolves, off to their best start in more than a decade, don’t play again until Saturday, when they host 2A Cedarcrest.

Using the Olympic League’s web site and Max Preps, I can go back as far as 2008, and, during that time, no Coupeville baseball squad has gotten off to better than a 5-4 mark.

The Wolves hit that mark in 2017, 2015, 2013 and 2010, but this time around they turned Friday Harbor’s weaknesses into a sixth, very satisfying win.

With hurler Hunter Smith firing BB’s on the mound (whiffing nine and retiring eight of the final nine hitters he faced), Coupeville didn’t need much offense.

Which doesn’t mean it wasn’t happy to accept what Friday Harbor offered.

The Wolves scraped out the only run that mattered in the top of the first, using a single from Matt Hilborn, a sacrifice from Joey Lippo, a passed ball and an RBI single by Smith to “bust” things open.

Coupeville added two more runs in the third, a single tally in the fourth and a game-capping five-run explosion in the top of the seventh, while not notching a single hit in those innings.

In the third, Hilborn and Lippo each walked, stole second and came around to score on Friday Harbor errors, while Nick Etzell pulled off the same maneuver in the fourth.

The Wolves gave Smith a much-bigger cushion in the fifth, again using a mix of walks (five this time) and booted balls by their hosts (two more) to plate five.

The final run came home off of a ground-out by Hilborn, one of the few times CHS was given a chance to put the ball into play in the latter stages of the game.

After collecting two base-knocks way back in the first, Coupeville didn’t get another hit until Smith ripped a fifth-inning single.

But, like Dane Lucero, who led off the sixth with a double, he was left high and dry, stranded and unable to score.

Not that it mattered much, as the Wolves capitalized on what they were given, with seven of nine hitters scoring at least once.

Hilborn and Lippo each tapped home plate twice to lead the scoring attack, while the only two starters not to score, Kyle Rockwell and Jake Pease, both picked up RBIs with bases-loaded walks.

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