Things looked dicey for the Mercer Island Islanders baseball team before the bottom of the third inning began in their matchup against the Redmond Mustangs.
Redmond, who scored three runs in the top of the third, had a commanding 4-0 advantage in a contest with a berth in the KingCo 3A championship game on the line.
The Islanders weren’t rattled by the deficit. Mercer Island scored three runs in the bottom of the third, cutting Redmond’s lead to 4-3. With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, Mercer Island slugger Alex Shanks connected on three-run homer to left field off of Redmond starting pitcher Connor Barison, giving Mercer Island a 6-4 lead. The Islanders added another run on Teague Condor’s RBI single in the bottom of the fifth, scoring Nikhil Nayar from third base extending Mercer Island’s lead to 7-4.
Redmond managed to push one run across the plate in the top of the sixth and another run in the top of the seventh but Mercer Island relief pitcher Parker Simpson struck out Redmond hitter Dustin Lennon-Jones for the final out, preserving Mercer Island’s 7-6 victory against Redmond on May 3 at Bannerwood Park in Bellevue.
Simpson’s strikeout was huge considering Redmond’s speedy pinch runner Nick Holt was stranded on third base just 90 feet away from tying the game. Simpson, who pitched 4 1/3 innings in relief, surrendered just four hits and one earned run in a gutsy performance.
“Parker has been a stud all year. His innings have been limited a little bit because we have so many guys pitching for us, but it has nothing to do with a lack of ability. He has special arm and you saw it tonight,” Mercer Island head coach Dominic Woody said with pride following the game about Simpson. “He picked up 4 1/3 innings for us. We’re playing in the (KingCo 3A) championship game on Saturday because of it.”
When Simpson entered the game in the top of the third the Islanders trailed 4-0. Mercer Island outscored Redmond 7-2 down the stretch en route to a comeback win. Woody said the four-run deficit early in the game reminded him of a contest earlier this season against the Eastside Catholic Crusaders on March 16. The Islanders trailed the Crusaders 7-0 but registered an 8-7 comeback triumph.
“We went down a touchdown and were able to comeback on them. Its not the first time we’ve done it this year but it’s the first time we’ve been tested like this in a quite while,” Woody said of trailing by a large margin. “I was really proud of the boys for being able to continue to just grind it out and not panic. We got ourselves right back into the game.”
The signature moment of the night was when Shanks connected on the three-run homer in the bottom of the fourth.
“Alex got a changeup and he was able to stay through it and drive it. He hasn’t hit one (home run) in a while. There was no bigger time than that to do it. It was huge for us,” Woody said.
Mercer Island will face the Juanita Rebels in the KingCo 3A title game at 7 p.m. on May 5 at Bannerwood Park in Bellevue.