Olympia defeats Puyallup in 4A state baseball championship game, 7-6

·3 min read
Pete Caster/pcaster@thenewstribune.com

The baseball rolled out to right field, into the waiting glove of Olympia senior Taber Fast. He saw Puyallup’s Jeremiah Crain turning on the burners and rounding third base in the bottom of the seventh inning of the 4A state championship game at Gesa Stadium in Pasco.

If he scored, the game would be tied once again. Fast, who started the game on the mound for the Bears, wasn’t having any of that. He collected the ball and fired an absolute missile to catcher Lane Fuller. It was a perfect throw, and Fuller did the rest, applying the tag to end the game and seal the 7-6 win for the Bears. It’s the first state championship in Olympia’s program history.

“I knew it was a do-or-die play, I knew that run was coming around and it was going to tie it up,” Fast said. “I knew I needed to get that ball in and I did. I really don’t know what else to say, I picked the ball up and I threw it.”

It was a highly entertaining, back-and-forth affair east of the mountains between the best teams from the 4A South Puget Sound League. Olympia jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the third inning behind a Brody Phinney sacrifice fly and a Lincoln Berg sac bunt. Fast started settling into a rhythm after a rocky first inning and was cruising along, but Puyallup was eventually able to get to him.

Both teams provided fireworks in the sixth inning. In the top half of the frame, a Lane Fuller double and a Logan Shepherd bloop single into right field gave Olympia a 5-2 lead. Puyallup fired back; Jeremiah Crain led off the bottom of the inning with a double and Kai Halstead — who finished with a three-hit game and a home run shy of hitting for the cycle — smashed an RBI triple to cut the deficit to two. Freshman Gage Thompson lined a single into left field to drive in two runs, tying the game at 5-5.

Olympia responded in the seventh, when Lincoln Berg had probably the biggest hit of his life. Just a freshman, he drove in two runs with a single, giving Olympia a 7-5 lead. Berg finished the day with three hits. Not a bad way to cap off season No. 1 of your high school career.

“I’m just so happy,” he said after the game. “I don’t have words. ... I was just trying my best to score those runs.”

Down to its final out and trailing by two, Puyallup’s Garrett Ringer stepped into the batter’s box. He lined a single into right field, scoring Donte Grant before Fields was thrown out at the plate to end the game.

Olympia got close to winning the 4A state title in 2019, the last time there were spring state tournaments in Washington. The Bears took second that year, losing 5-3 to Moses Lake in the title game. This year, Olympia finished the job.

“No words can describe it,” Fast said. “It’s quite a feeling. It really is awesome. We worked so hard for this, this has been our mission. To come out here and just kick butt like this means so much, it’s unbelievable.”

Saturday’s state championship game marked the fourth meeting between the two teams this season. The sides split the regular-season series, with Puyallup winning the first meeting on April 5, before Olympia won the second meeting later that month. The Vikings and Bears also met in the 4A West Central/Southwest bidistrict championship game, where Olympia won, 8-4 just two weeks ago.

TNT photographer Pete Caster contributed to this story.

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