Posts Tagged ‘Matt Hilborn’

Senior Matt Hilborn led CHS baseball in multiple stat categories, both as a pitcher and hitter. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The season’s not complete without one final swing through the stat sheet.

The Coupeville High School baseball squad exited the playoffs Saturday, after pushing a pair of league champs hard.

With the losses to Northwest Conference kingpin Meridian and Emerald City League bigwig Overlake, the Wolves finished 7-14.

That was a big comeback, though, as Coupeville started the season 0-12.

A 4-3 win over arch-rival South Whidbey snapped the skid — and eventually denied the Falcons a chance to win the North Sound Conference title — and kicked off a seven-game winning streak.

CHS swept three-game sets from Sultan and Granite Falls to snare the final NSC playoff berth.

As they pack up the uniforms, bats, and balls until next spring, a look at final individual stats:



Player AB Runs Hits 2B 3B HR SB BB RBI Avg. OBP
D. Olson 50 8 8 3 8 10 .160 .276
H. Wolfe 52 9 15 2 12 5 6 .288 .383
M. Grove 30 4 2 2 4 1 .067 .176
G. Knoblich 55 5 15 2 4 8 .273 .333
M. Hilborn 61 16 19 2 12 11 7 .311 .427
J. Carlson 1
B. Payne 28 4 2 4 9 2 .071 .297
A. Score 5
S. Weatherford 1 1 2 .667
D. Lucero 51 7 16 6 1 14 8 .314 .471
S. Losey 32 5 5 2 1 4 6 1 .156 .289
S. Sharp 7 1 2 1 2 1 .286 .444
G. Straub 2 2 .333
J. Pease 54 11 13 1 2 8 13 .241 .333
U. Wells 55 9 12 3 1 2 4 7 .218 .279
C. Roberts 11 2 1 1 2 2 .091 .231



Player ERA Gms Starts Hits Runs BB HBP K IP BF WHIP
D. Olson 12.37 7 7 45 53 26 6 28 24.1 153 2.918
H. Wolfe 8.75 3 4 5 1 2 2 4.0 20 1.250
M. Grove 5.25 2 2 1 2 1 2 1.1 9 3.000
G. Knoblich 3.50 2 1 1 6 2 1 2.0 15 3.500
M. Hilborn 1.64 8 6 27 18 20 5 45 38.1 172 1.226
J. Carlson 5.83 6 14 6 3 3 6.0 38 2.833
D. Lucero 4.88 8 8 54 40 28 2 35 38.2 204 2.121
C. Roberts 5.94 11 17 14 12 3 15 15.1 78 1.891

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Catcher Gavin Knoblich is one of five starters who can return for a Coupeville baseball team which finished its season strongly. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The Wolves are done, while the Falcons still have a shot.

The Coupeville High School baseball squad, which beat the odds by making the playoffs after an 0-12 start to the season, dropped a pair of close games Saturday at the bi-district tourney in Bellingham, bringing its season to an end.

Meanwhile, South Whidbey split two contests, and gets to return to Sehome High School next Saturday to play a winner-to-state, loser-out game.

The Falcons, the #2 seed from the North Sound Conference, opened the day by beating Mount Baker 5-0, before falling 5-1 to NWC kingpin Cedar Park Christian in the semifinals.

Coupeville fell 6-1 to Northwest Conference champ Meridian, then exited after a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Emerald City League champ Overlake.

Cedar Park (19-3) and Meridian (11-10) won two games apiece, clinched tickets to state, and face off May 11 for the district title.

That same day, South Whidbey (18-4) plays Overlake (15-5), while King’s (12-10) faces University Prep (10-7).

The winners of those games are state-bound, as well, and return to the field in the afternoon to decide the district’s #3 and #4 seeds to the big dance.

Mount Baker (9-13) and Coupeville (7-14) are done, joining Lynden Christian (11-14), which was eliminated in an earlier play-in game.

How Saturday developed for the Wolves:


Game 1:

Coupeville struck first, but it would turn out to be the only run they got off of Meridian ace Dylan Hickok.

Freshman Hawthorne Wolfe whacked a one-out single off of a fielder’s glove, stole second, then came around to score on an RBI single by Dane Lucero in the bottom of the first, promising big things.

But, while the Wolves put runners aboard in four of the next six innings, they couldn’t push them across the plate, something at which the Trojans fared slightly better.

Meridian picked up a run of its own in the bottom of the first, and the game stayed knotted at 1-1 until the bottom of the third, as Lucero and Hickock dueled in the sun.

The Trojans finally broke through thanks to a lead-off double from Brayden Zender, a shot which hit Earth (barely) in fair territory, before shooting away from the fielder into foul territory.

Big fans of playing small ball, and very adept at it, the Northwest Conference’s best 1A team plated the eventual winning run on a suicide squeeze, then added two more in the inning thanks to a bloop single which dropped in between a pair of Wolf fielders.

Up 4-1, Hickok was in charge, but also probably saying a silent prayer of thanks after his squad put up another run in both the fourth and sixth innings.

Coupeville, after going down 1-2-3 in the second, had runners in scoring position in the third, fourth, and sixth innings, but came up a hit shy each time.

In the third frame, Shane Losey lofted a little flare to left for a single, but he eventually died a slow death at third base.

An inning later, Lucero drilled a lead-off single and Gavin Knoblich bunted him over to second, but that was where he remained as the Wolf rally sputtered out.

Coupeville’s final best chance came in the top of the sixth, with Lucero getting plunked and Ulrik Wells lashing a single.

But with two on and two out, Hickok dodged one final time, inducing an inning-ending ground-out before retiring CHS in order in the seventh.

The Wolves rung up six hits in the opener, with Lucero punching a pair of singles in support of his own pitching.

Matt Hilborn, Wolfe, Wells, and Losey also collected base-knocks.


Game 2:

With their backs to the wall, the Wolves found themselves facing a familiar foe, but this time it almost turned out radically different.

In the second game of the season, Coupeville suffered one of its few blow-out losses this season, falling 13-1 to Overlake.

Jump forward to Saturday afternoon and CHS pushed the Owls hard, carrying a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth.

With Hilborn keeping Overlake at bay — he gave up a pair of doubles in the early going, but stranded both runners — Coupeville had a prime opportunity to jump out to a lead.

It didn’t come for quite awhile, though, as the Wolves stranded Knoblich at third base in the second and frittered away a lead-off double from Lucero┬áin the fourth.

Coupeville finally cracked the scoreless tie thanks to some smartly-done small ball of its own.

Losey scampered to first when a third strike got away from the Overlake catcher, stole second, went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Hilborn, then scored on a Wolfe RBI single.

Overlake responded quickly, however, putting together three hits and a walk in the bottom half of the fifth and turning it into three runs.

A Knoblich single went for naught in the sixth, but Coupeville rallied in the seventh, plating one and putting the tying run at third.

Back-to-back walks to Losey and Hilborn got the inning off with a bang, but Overlake picked up two outs on grounders to even things out a bit.

The second of those rollers, coming from third-baseman Jake Pease, brought in a run, cutting the lead to a single score.

But that game-tying run, represented by Wolfe bouncing on the bag at third, never got to come down the line, as the game ended on a come-backer to the Owls hurler.

Wolfe and Knoblich each had a pair of singles in the season-ending loss, while Lucero’s final prep hit was a two-bagger.

The defeat brings an end to the high school careers of seniors Hilborn, Losey, Pease, Lucero, and Bryce Payne, but CHS coach Chris Smith can return starters Wolfe, Knoblich, Wells, Daniel Olson, and Mason Grove, as well as several key reserves.

While Coupeville lost its first 12 games, it was highly competitive during that streak.

The season turned around with a 4-3 home win over South Whidbey, a loss which eventually cost the Falcons a share of the league title.

After that, the Wolves got their bats cookin’ and swept three-game series from Sultan and Granite Falls to nab the league’s final playoff berth.

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Ulrik Wells crashes hard to score the second of his team’s 14 runs Friday afternoon. (Karen Carlson photo)

The team that couldn’t score, now can’t stop.

Throwing double digits up on the scoreboard for the third straight game Friday, the Coupeville High School baseball squad crushed visiting Sultan 14-4, completing a season sweep of the Turks and running its winning streak to four games.

With the win, the Wolves rise to 4-8 in North Sound Conference play, 4-12 overall, and need just one victory in three games against Granite Falls next week to clinch a playoff spot.

Coupeville sits two games up on the Tigers (2-10, 4-13) heading into the final regular-season series.

The teams play Monday and Friday in Coupeville, with a Wednesday clash at Granite.

The top four teams from the six-team NSC advance to the postseason, and Cedar Park Christian (12-0, 16-1), South Whidbey (10-2, 15-2), and King’s (7-5, 8-9) are the top three seeds.

With the loss Friday, Sultan (1-11, 1-16) was eliminated from contention for the #4 seed, leaving Coupeville and Granite Falls to fight amongst themselves.

If the Wolves nail down a playoff berth, they open the double-elimination district tourney Saturday, May 4 at Sehome High School.

They would play the #1 seed from the Northwest Conference (currently Mount Baker), and win or lose, would play a second playoff game later that same day.

But that’s still in a possible future, and Coupeville head coach Chris Smith believes in the oldest of baseball proverbs — take them one game at a time.

Friday he saw his team play very patient ball, racking up seven hits and 14 walks in a game which seemed to drift through every season.

Pushing two-and-a-half hours, even with the mercy rule bringing the game to a close after six innings, the contest opened with the pitter-patter of rain, moved through the rustle of wind, then closed with a rare burst or two of sunshine.

Along the way, the Wolves got a solid pitching performance from Matt Hilborn, who whiffed 11 before pitch count limits removed him from the mound an out short of putting in six innings of work.

Matt came out and gave it his all,” Smith said. “He got some good work in, and we needed that for him heading in to next week.”

Mason Grove made a rare appearance on the mound in relief of Hilborn, and, on mom Mindy’s birthday, slammed the door shut quickly, ending Sultan’s final hopes on a fly-out.

Offensively, Coupeville accepted what it was given, then made the Turks pay, over and over again, scoring in five of six innings.

In the beginning, the Wolves were content to scratch out a run here, a run there, plating a single hitter in the first and second innings.

The first time around it was Hilborn, who walked, stole second, went to third on a passed ball, then shot home to score on a Hawthorne Wolfe grounder.

Looking for a bit more excitement in the second frame, the Wolves got a one-out single to left-center off the bat of first-baseman Ulrik Wells.

After a balk bumped him ahead an extra base, Coupeville’s tallest player defied the odds, scoring on a passed ball and doing it with a spectacular face-first dive under the Sultan catcher.

The Wolves busted the game open with an 11-batter, seven-run third inning which went on and on and on some more, as a Sultan reliever played a game called “999 pitches and no strikes.”

Picking up six walks, including three with the bases jammed full of runners, CHS also took advantage of two Turk errors — a bad throw and a brain freeze — and a couple of passed balls/wild pitches, before capping things with one resounding hit.

That came from Hilborn, making his second trip to the plate in the inning, after being plunked in the thigh by a wayward pitch the first time around.

Getting some sweet revenge, he smashed a two-run single right back up the middle, the ball almost taking the pitcher’s leg off as it ricocheted by and shot into open space.

Sultan, playing with the minimum nine players, did its best to hang tough, though, and rallied to pull within 9-4.

But Hilborn was ultimately too much for the Turks, and he got some help on defense.

Gavin Straub made a great running catch in right field and shortstop Jake Pease went over his shoulder to snag a high lob while on the move.

Coupeville added two more runs in the fifth inning, on RBI singles from Wolfe and Dane Lucero, before putting Sultan out of its misery in the sixth.

Walks to Daniel Olson, Seth Weatherford, and Hilborn, plus two more Sultan errors, let a pair of Wolves scamper home, but the 14th, and final run, came on a truly solid base-knock.

It came from Pease, who slapped the exclamation point on things with a rocket of a single to deep center-field.

Any other time, the laser would have brought two, and possibly all three runners aboard around to score, but Coupeville only needed one to stretch the lead to 10, so Pease was denied extra RBI’s.

Not that it seemed to bother him, as the senior helped lead a raucous post-game celebration.

Lucero paced the offense with a pair of singles, while Hilborn, Wolfe, Pease, Gavin Knoblich, and Wells all chipped in with a base-knock of their own.

Hilborn (4), Olson (3), and Lucero (2) drew multiple base on balls, with the one-walk club offering membership to Bryce Payne, Weatherford, Straub, Wells, and Pease.

With the game mostly in hand all the way, Smith mixed and matched his lineup, getting 13 players on the field.

Sage Sharp started in right field and Jonny Carlson pulled back-up duty at first to round out the Wolves who played.

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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:


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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