Tumwater tops rival W.F. West on walkoff sacrifice fly, heads to state 2A title game

Playing for the fifth time this season, and for yet another time in the 2A state playoffs, Friday’s edition of the rivalry between No. 2 Tumwater and No. 3 W.F. West at Joe Martin Stadium came down to the little things once again.

Tied up at 1-1 heading into the seventh, with runs — and hits — hard to come by, the Thunderbirds got the last laugh of the season, beating the Bearcats, 2-1, via a walk-off sacrifice fly from Kyler Collier.

The win propels the T-Birds into their second straight state title game appearance after winning the whole thing a year ago.

“We’ve worked all offseason,” Tumwater coach Lyle Overbay said. “I’m just proud of these guys. Sometimes you put that hard work in and it doesn’t pay off, so it’s good to see a lot of guys put a ton of work in and it’s paying off. It’s been fun to watch.”

The Thunderbirds and Bearcats seemed destined for dramatics even early on, with neither pitcher finding the zone easily, but both getting out of just about every jam they got themselves into.

Tumwater ace Alex Overbay walked five and gave up five more hits, but escaped several jams with runners in scoring position, finding ways to strand runners and leave innings unscathed.

It wasn’t until the fifth inning when the Bearcats finally got a run across, with Evan Stajduhar knocking in Gavin Fugate from third on a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 1-1. Then Overbay settled in, finishing the game with six punchouts and not allowing a Bearcat base runner over the final two innings in a complete game performance.

“We knew it was going to be tough,” Overbay said. “W.F. West doesn’t quit. It’s a matter of little things that went our way, but it was guys battling and knowing what we needed to do in certain situations. Alex, he didn’t have his stuff, but he still did what he did to keep us in that game and kept us battling. He got stronger as the game went on.”

The T-Birds struck first in the bottom of the first inning, with Overbay hitting a one-out double, and Eddie Marson knocking in courtesy runner Andrew Collins in on the next at-bat on a hard-hit single.

From there, W.F. West’s Hunter Lutman went to work, shutting down the T-Bird bats and, like Overbay, getting out of jams throughout the game.

“He was as good as he could be,” Bearcats coach Jesse Elam said. “That’s all we could’ve asked for out of him there. When I got this job and I heard about him, that’s what I dreamed he could do, what he did today. He’s a friggin’ dude. We knew when we put him out there that he was going to give everything he had and he did, he left it all out there. I’m really proud of him.”

Lutman hit his pitch count, but threw six innings, allowing just a run on five hits and five walks with a strikeout.

The Bearcat bats, which found ways to reach base, just couldn’t quite get over the hump and knock runners in. In the second inning, W.F. West loaded the bases with just one out, but hit an infield pop-up that was muffed by the T-Bird infield and turned into a double play.

The next inning, W.F. West had runners on the corners with two outs, and couldn’t get any runs across. It wasn’t until the fifth that the Bearcats loaded the bases to score a run, but couldn’t get any more.

“He’s a battler, I thought we just didn’t get that hit,” Elam said. “We had base runners and opportunities, but we missed a few chances. We didn’t have the luck today, it felt like.”

Conversely, in the bottom of the seventh when the T-Birds needed a big hit to end it, Overbay got the action started with a leadoff double on the first pitch, and after a sac bunt advanced the runner to third, Collier’s sac fly was just the timely hit Tumwater needed to make its second straight state title game.

“We hit the ball well in big at-bats,” Overbay said. “Those are little things that are different. That was a great swing by Kyler, those are the things that they’re really good at, throughout the whole lineup.”

The Bearcats will have to get their minds right in less than 24 hours for a third-place contest against either No. 1 Selah or No. 5 Lynden Saturday at 1 p.m. for the second straight season.

W.F. West defeated Ellensburg last season in the third-place game.

“It’s the worst game in America to have to play in,” Elam said. “We’re going to go out and have fun playing the game for these 10 seniors.”

Tumwater will take on the winner of Selah and Lynden Saturday at 7 p.m., looking for its second straight state title and its second as a program.