Baseball lets six-run lead slip, still win
By Matt Phelps
Mercer Island Reporter
The Mercer Island High School baseball team’s season opener against Lakeside at Island Crest Park looked like a typical Islander baseball game. The home team built an 8-2 lead before their opponents stormed back to tie the game with four runs during the top of the final inning. But fate intervened to save the Islanders. A walk and two errors by the Lions allowed Mercer Island to score the winning run, 9-8, March 14.
“It was a good thing to see,” said new Mercer Island head coach Brian Potoshnik, about the win. “We saw glimpses of how good we can be. But we have a lot of work to do.”
The Islander win, and the need for a comeback, were both because of the pitching efforts of Islander Joseph Bassetti. The senior took over for starter Robbie Philbrick at the start of the fourth inning, taking the Islander faithful on a roller coaster. Bassetti pitched well during the fourth and sixth innings by only giving up one hit and a walk, but hit three batters, and gave up six runs during the fifth and seventh innings. Two critical fielding errors by teammates led to two runs. During the seventh, Bassetti earned the first out but loaded the bases on singles through the infield. The coach left the senior on the mound.
“I wanted to see what he had,” said Potoshnik. “I had the full intention to let him finish the game.”
But an error off the glove of Islander shortstop Willie Reel, cut Bassetti’s night short of the win.
Relieving Bassestti, Islander James Hotson came in and got a fielder’s choice and the final out of the inning.
“I knew I had to get two outs,” said Hotson, who was 2-for-3 during the game with two RBIs. “We would like to finish better, but we got the win and that is all that matters.”
But the damage was done and the Islanders slowly walked to the dugout with their chins on their chests.
The eventual winning would come on a throwing error by the Lions’ third baseman, as AJ Simpron crossed home plate for the home team.
Leading the way for Mercer Island at the plate was Hotson, Tyler Holbrook, with two singles, a double and two RBIs, and Cullen Russel with a triple, a single and an RBI. But just like with Bassetti the good came with the bad as Holbrook was thrown out on the base paths three times and Russel was thrown out at third during the sixth.
“(The team) showed that they can compete and that is a start,” said Potoshnik. “But they have to learn how to bury a team. If you get up 8-2 you have to put them away.”
Hotson said that the team let down and the offensive statistics show it. During the first four innings Mercer Island scored eight runs on 12 hits and two walks. But the final three innings only accounted for two base hits, none of which accounted for the final run.
“Our pitching was not up to par,” said Hotson. “We have to stay strong through the game.”
Philbrick pitched the first three innings and was hot and cold like Bassetti, with a 1, 2, 3 first, but allowed six runners to reach base during the duration of the outing. A double play, started by Philbrick, ended a threat during the third.
Mercer Island’s win comes on the heels a good showing during the preseason jamboree. But the Islanders will have to tune it up this week as they traveled to Liberty for a in-league game Tuesday (after Reporter deadline) and will host 4A Ingraham at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The Islanders will begin the heart of their in-league schedule 4 p.m. Monday as they travel to Sammamish High School to take on the Totems.
Walk off finish
On the same day as the varsity comeback against Lakeside, the “C” team also waged a comeback with an explosive finish. The Islander team found itself tied during the final inning 6-6 before Jacob Mead sent a high arching two-run home run over the right field fence to end the game 8-6. The win over Redmond was the team’s second of the year as they won their season opener 11-1 over Liberty.