Wilder Junior pitcher Silas Thomas throws in the opening inning against Australia White at Port Angeles Volunteer Field on July 3. 
                                Keith Thorpe Olympic Peninsula News Group

Wilder Junior pitcher Silas Thomas throws in the opening inning against Australia White at Port Angeles Volunteer Field on July 3. Keith Thorpe Olympic Peninsula News Group

Thomas, Grubb help Wilder Junior split Yakima tournament

With their district tournament looming, four Sequim natives help lead Wilder Junior.

Wilder Junior Baseball Club had a busy weekend, traveling all the way to Yakima to compete in the Chuck Brown Memorial Tournament. Their record shows they came a little short of their goal with a 2-2 record in the six-team American Legion tournament, but they came within a game of making the championship game and coach Zac Moore is happy with how his team performed less than a week before their district tournament begins.

Wilder Junior won each of their two games on Friday against Mount Spokane and the Pasco Riverdogs, scoring 22 runs on the day between the two games. Against Mount Spokane, Wilder Junior came back from a 5-3 deficit going into the bottom of the sixth inning to explode for nine runs in the inning to ultimately win 12-5.

Their late night game against Pasco was a more even affair, going back and forth all night. Wilder had tied it up at 6-6 after the fifth inning, but Pasco scored two runs in the top of the sixth inning to put the pressure squarely back on Wilder. They would respond by scoring four runs in the inning to win it 10-8, with the winning two-run base hit coming courtesy of Ty Bradow. After the inning ended, the game was called for time.

Sequim local Silas Thomas started their third game against Yakima Valley and pitched what Moore called “his usual good outing,” but defensive issues behind him “let him down” as his coach described.

“Silas had really good stuff and we were in a position to win it,” Moore said. Wilder had a 3-2 lead going into the bottom of the sixth inning, but Yakima Valley were able to string together enough hits to manufacture two more runs, then silenced Wilder’s bats in the top of the seventh to claim a 4-3 win.

On Sunday, Sequim’s Michael Grubb lead the way with three of Wilder Junior’s 11 hits against Pasco, but that wasn’t enough to beat the Tri-Cities team a second time. “We used seven different pitchers, which was the plan,” said Moore, who was planning for Wilder’s upcoming district tournament that starts on July 17, “but that made it tough to get a rhythm going.”

That lack of rhythm left the door open for Pasco to claw their way back from a 4-3 deficit going into the seventh inning, scoring three runs to claim a 6-4 win.

Sequim impact

When asked about his Sequim-based players, Moore was full of praise. “I can’t say a negative thing about any of them,” he said. “They’re all quality people.”

Thomas, who is one of Wilder Junior’s older players, has been a steady starter on the mound for them this season, though Moore did bemoan the fact that Saturday’s defensive woes behind him have been something of a theme in his starts. At the plate, Thomas has been hitting line drives all over the field, something Moore says he’s enjoyed watching.

Moore described catcher Zack McCracken as a “workhorse,” saying that while he didn’t have the stats at hand McCracken had likely caught over 100 innings for Wilder Junior this summer, an impressive total for a catcher. “If he’s not at 100 yet, it’s really close,” Moore said.

“McCracken is easily one of our most improved players this year,” Moore added. “The work he’s done to get better behind the plate, to throw out runners or block plays at the plate, has been really impressive.”

McCracken himself has enjoyed the challenge of playing with Wilder. “I feel like people who come to play summer ball are more serious,” the catcher said. “They aren’t just there to earn a letter.”

The Sequim High School sophomore-to-be is in his sixth season of summer play, working with teams on Bainbridge Island and in Kitsap County before playing with the Crosscutters in recent summers, who started formally working with Wilder Junior this season.

Michael Grubb and Connor Baer got called out as two of the hardest working players on the team. “It’s a competition between those two to see who’s doing more,” Moore said. “Kids like them are a big part of the reason why we get into coaching.

Grubb’s leadership has been a big factor to Wilder’s successes this season, Moore said.

“He makes his teammates better just by showing up. He’s the kind of kid you want other people to be around,” the coach added.

Baer’s utility has been big for Wilder this season, making appearances at second base, catching, pitching, and all over the outfield this summer. “That makes things a bit of a challenge for him, but his approach to everything is so good,” Moore said.

McCracken and Baer have been slumping a bit at the plate of late, but according to Moore they provide so many other things to the team that it’s hard not to play them.

Wilder Juniors, who have players from Sequim, Port Angeles, and even Bainbridge Island, start their American Legion AA district tournament as the number three seed on Wednesday, July 17 at Burlington-Edison High School in Burlington. They’ll take on sixth-seeded Blyn at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17. If they place in the top five in the tournament, they’ll move on to the state tournament.

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