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Veteran-laden Pullman baseball soars to district title

May 12—Two years ago as underclassmen, Pullman baseball players Calvin Heusser, Cade Hill, Caleb Northcroft and Brady Coulter watched West Valley celebrate a walk-off victory against the Greyhounds in a district tournament game.

Two years later, now seniors and a junior (Coulter), the quartet played pivotal roles in securing their own district tournament crown against the Eagles.

Heusser pitched a complete game, Northcroft hit a game-tying triple, Hill smacked the go-ahead triple and Coulter caught the game-sealing out to earn Pullman an 8-4 victory in a Washington 2A district championship Saturday at Martin J. Quann Field.

It was a far cry from that heartbreaking 10-9 loss in 2022 — a game that Hill, Heusser and Coulter all pitched in defeat.

"We've been really young for a few years," Northcroft said. "We have like 10 seniors this year, so it's really the experience of playing with each other throughout our whole high school careers since sophomores and freshmen, and just putting it all together at the right time."

Next up for Pullman (18-4) is the opening round of the 2A state tournament next Saturday. The Greyhounds will learn their seeding, opponent and location today.

Double the triples

West Valley (13-9), of Spokane Valley, led 2-0 in the third inning before Pullman got its first runs.

Northcroft connected with a fastball that he sent deep to right-center field for a triple that scored Brayden Randall. Northcroft began to celebrate on third base when his coach, Kevin Agnew, frantically signaled for him to run home on an errant throw.

Then, like Road Runner zipping away from Wile E. Coyote, Northcroft reignited the jets and crossed home plate for a makeshift inside-the-park home run to tie it at 2-2.

"Struck on it, saw it was going far, got on my horse, got up (at third base) and started celebrating," Northcroft said. "Coach was like 'Go! Go!' I got home, got the run and got some momentum for us."

It was another triple — also to right-center field — that put Pullman in the lead for good.

In the fourth, Hill's RBI-triple scored Heusser from first for a 3-2 Pullman lead. Hill scored himself on a throwing error on the next at-bat.

Heusser goes the distance

While most high school pitchers have two or three pitches in their arsenal, Heusser wields five different throws: a fastball, changeup, slider, curveball and new addition this year — a knuckleball.

"I threw a few knuckleballs out there," Heusser said. "Last year I threw four pitches. This was my first year throwing the knuckleball."

His favorite toss?

"Definitely the slider," he said.

After allowing two early runs, Heusser settled in and pitched a complete-game victory. He fanned six batters in the process.

Heusser was approaching the 105-pitch limit late in the seventh inning, but was able to stay in the game and finish out the final West Valley batter. He also scored two runs for the Greyhounds.

"That's two games this week where he's finished off and got the out for us in a pretty tough spot, so that's pretty cool," Agnew said.

Up next

After several years playing as a young team, this might be the best Pullman squad in Agnew's five years coaching.

The Greyhounds hope their experience will help them make a run at the state tournament.

"The best thing about the kids in our dugout is they respond really well," Agnew said. "When adversity hits, they're able to respond and they've done that all year. That's why they were able to get over the hump in the league championship and the district championship."

West Valley 002 000 2—4 3 6

Pullman 002 321 x—8 6 1

Brody Hart, Simeon Mattingly (5) and Easton O'Neal; Calvin Heusser and Brayden Randall. W—Heusser; L—Hart.

West Valley hits — O'Neal (2B), Cohen Kreider, Tony Lachenmaier.

Pullman hits — Caleb Northcroft (3B), Cade Hill (3B), Randall, Kristopher Schroeder, Brady Coulter, Heusser.

Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2260, swiebe@lmtribune.com or on Twitter @StephanSports.