Storm head to state semifinals with quality arms in the ready
VANCOUVER — Just one.
One is all it takes.
That was the mindset of Skyview pitcher Ryan Pitts in the first game of the Class 4A state baseball regionals.
It happened to be the mindset of Skyview pitcher Cooper Barnum in the second game of the state regionals, too.
Their focus, and a great defense behind them, have propelled the Storm into baseball’s final four for the third consecutive season.
The Storm beat Inglemoor 1-0 in the state round of 16.
“Once we got the run, not to be too confident, but I thought the game was over,” Pitts said. “I was feeling good. All we needed was the one run … to finish the job.”
A few hours later, the Storm topped Eastlake 1-0 in the quarterfinals.
“I had confidence in us the whole game,” Barnum said, despite it being a scoreless game into the sixth inning. “If I did my thing, we’d come out on top.”
In fact, going into the bottom of the sixth inning, Barnum gave his teammates a bit of a pep talk.
“Give me one run. I’ll shut ‘em down in the seventh inning, and we’ll be out of here with a win.”
The Storm got that run, got that W.
Two aces. Two games. Two shutouts.
Actually, that does not do justice to this Skyview staff. The Storm believe they have numerous aces. It’s just that Pitts and Barnum were so strong last Saturday, no one else was needed.
This week, though, all arms will be ready.
Skyview will face Moses Lake at 7 p.m. Friday at Gesa Stadium in Pasco in one semifinal of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association tournament: http://wiaa.com/ardisplay.aspx?ID=1825
Skyview coach Seth Johnson reports that Pitts will start that game, but that is all he knows for certain. Saturday’s starter cannot be determined until Friday’s business is handled. If that means using a number of pitchers, so be it.
Skyview has to be confident, too, with Lowell Dunmire and Alex Miller joining Barnum and Pitts in the mix.
Johnson said his blood pressure went up in about the third inning of the first game. It remained high until the final out of the second game.
“Every pitch matters,” he said. “It’s just a different animal.”
The Storm are used to it, though. They won 2-1 in the quarterfinals last year, then 3-1 in the semifinals.
The players thrive under pressure, in fact. Over the past five years, the Storm have gone 17-4 in loser-out games.
“We openly talk about adrenaline and nerves,” Johnson said. “They embrace it.”
Which is why Pitts and Barnum were so cool under pressure.
Pitts credited shortstop Noah Guyette for making a lot of plays in the Inglemoor game. Barnum, playing outfield in that first game, made a diving effort for a ball. He did not get the catch, but Pitts said that gave him the confidence to attack batters, knowing what his teammates were willing to do behind him. Derek Lewis, playing second base, had an unassisted double play in that game, too.
In the Eastlake game, Liam Kerr made a diving play to save a run in the first inning. At the time, no one knew just how big of a play it would become, but once again, the Storm defense was up to task. Guyette made a sweet play to start a double play to end the game.
Pitchers pitch. Defenders defend. Skyview wins.
The Storm are back where they always believed they could be, in the final four, but this team took an interesting route to Pasco. Skyview did not win the 4A Greater St. Helens League. Camas swept the Storm on the way to the title. The Storm, though, made it through the bi-district tournament to the state round of 16.
“We knew going into the playoffs we were still a really good team,” Pitts said. “We are really talented, and we work harder than anyone in the state. We were still confident.”
Barnum said every loss in the season reminded him and his teammates of what it felt like the final day of the 2018 season — a loss in the state championship game to Richland.
“Losing to anyone brings up the Richland game, and it just motivates us to get better,” Barnum said.
Win or lose in the final four, the program is a proven winner. Pitts credited the older players when he was younger for being mentors to the underclassmen. Now a senior, it has been his job to show how it is done at Skyview.
Cooper Barnum, a junior, was a freshman when his older brother Brody Barnum starred on that 2017 squad. Cooper texted Brody, now playing at Washington State, just how cool it is to be going “back-to-back-to-back” to the final four.
Brody texted back: “I started it. Now you finish it.”
The Storm are two wins from doing just that.
They have their aces. And they have more aces in waiting, too They have their defense.
Oh, and if the bats get going …
Pitts and Barnum are not guaranteeing anything, other than a promise to enjoy the journey. The Skyview Storm know this journey very well.