STEVENSON, Wash. - It would certainly be premature to say that the Ilwaco High School baseball team was in a must-win situation against Stevenson. However, after losing twice in a doubleheader April 12 at home against Castle Rock, another loss for coach Jerry Eilers' squad surely would have been detrimental to the Fishermen's hopes of contending for a Trico League playoff spot.
The Fishermen (2-4 league) snapped a four-game losing streak, while quite possibly turning their season around with a momentum-building 16-2 victory over the Bulldogs (0-7 league, 1-7 overall) on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Stevenson High School.
The senior pitching duo of Sam Eilers and Casey Venus combined for 10 strikeouts, while limiting Stevenson to just three hits in the contest, which was shortened to five innings by the 10-run "mercy" rule. Junior shortstop Rocky Mirelez was a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate, walked once and scored four runs.
Kevin Brown, Burt Walters and Montez Pogue each added RBI singles as the Fishermen's catch included a total of seven hits. A 2-1 second inning Ilwaco lead quickly ballooned to 16-1 in the fourth. In the third and fourth innings combined, Ilwaco totaled 14 runs aided by three Bulldog errors, several passed balls and nine walks as 22 batters went to the plate.
"It was so disappointing losing a doubleheader at home last week, so coming out here to the Columbia Gorge, it's exciting for us to bounce back and get a big road win," said Mirelez, who had two singles, a triple and an RBI. " We've lost many close games this year and we didn't really know what to expect from Stevenson, but everyone sure was hitting the ball well. It really was a must-win situation. We'll play Stevenson again Friday at home in a doubleheader, so we're really looking forward to that game."
Eilers, Ilwaco's top pitcher, traded positions with Venus in the fourth as he moved to center field. Venus surrendered just one hit and one run, aided by an Ilwaco fielding error in the bottom of the fifth. If Eilers had remained on the mound in the fourth, he would've been unable to pitch today when the Fishermen meet the Columbia Bruins in a 4 p.m. home matchup (weather permitting). If a player pitches four or more innings in one game, the league rules prohibit him from throwing on the mound again without having two days of rest.
"This was a must-win game, because we desperately needed a victory and now it gives us some momentum as we prepare for a key contest against Columbia," said Jerry Eilers. "Pulling Sam out after three innings was a huge benefit and now he'll be able to pitch Monday (today), so I was glad that we had a big lead. We've had many games cancelled because of rain and this is the first time that we've played baseball in great and sunny weather conditions. Our goal now is to beat Columbia and then hopefully get a sweep against Stevenson, so that would give us a winning record, which would help us get back into contention for a district playoff berth."
The Bruins (6-3), from White Salmon, took fourth place in the 2002 Class 2A state playoffs and they were runnersup in the Trico League last year to defending state champion Ridgefield.
"I'm surprised about how easily we won the game and it's sure nice to get a win after losing four straight, so it helps to improve our team morale a little bit," said Sam Eilers, who had a double, 2 RBIs, three walks and scored three runs. "I was throwing well and with such nice weather, everyone was in a good mood and eager to play a good baseball game.
"If we come out and hit the ball hard like we did today, then we're capable of beating anybody. We lost a close game to Ridgefield earlier in the season and I feel pretty confident about our chance of winning today against Columbia."