SANDPOINT — You had to go back to 2007 to find the last time Sandpoint was inscribed into the 4A district championship trophy, but that didn’t matter one bit to the 2018 Bulldogs, as they passed around the shiny trophy after a solid 5-2 win over Lakeland in the third and deciding game of the 4A Region 1 baseball tournament Friday at War Memorial Field.
Sophomore lefty Tyler Lehman was once again in command on the mound, turning in his second strong start of the tournament, combining with reliever Preston Pettit to hold the Hawks in check with the season on the line. Lehman allowed five hits in five plus innings of work, and for the third time in the series, Preston Pettit came in to work for the all-important final outs.
The Bulldogs (12-6) will be a bit of a wild card at state starting next Thursday in Idaho Falls, which is fine by head coach Chase Tigert, whose team has both talent and grit, two of the reasons they’re going to state for the first time in more than a decade.
“I’m so proud of these kids. They put in the work. They believe in each other, this is their moment,” said Tigert, who has pulled all the right strings. “Outstanding pitching the entire series. Right now Preston is our fireman. I want to thank the community for coming out today. It’s amazing to see all these people here.”
Lehman took the loss in game one of the series on Monday, despite allowing just one earned run in 6 and 2/3 innings, and for the second time in three games, he held Lakeland (13-15) in check.
The sophomore pitches with great poise and command, and his mindset taking the ball with the season on the line was simple.
“Just go after them, always pound the zone. My slider was pretty dirty today,” admitted Lehman, who struck out three. “Compete, try and throw my best. There are seven guys behind me, let them work.”
The Bulldogs struck first when Trey Flint drove in Jacob Cometto for a 1-0 lead in the first, before Cometto delivered a huge two run double in the third for a 3-0 lead. Dylan Bradbury’s RBI single in the third closed the lead to 3-1. The Hawks loaded the bases twice in the third and fourth innings, but Lehman was able to pitch out of trouble.
Billy Brackett ripped a RBI triple to the gap, then scored on a throwing error to make it 5-1 in the fourth. One of the players kissing the trophy after a signature win for the program was 6-foot-5 raking first baseman Trey Flint, one of the key pieces of a program that has come a long ways in the past few years.
“It feels amazing, I can’t put it into words. We’ve been working four years for this,” said Flint, tipping his cap to Lehman. “The sophomore pitched lights out, I love seeing him in there.”
Senior Braden Gifford hammered two deep shots into the gap for a pair of doubles in defeat for Lakeland, which saw Max Baker, who shut down Moscow in the opener on Monday, go the distance in a solid start to end the season. Garrett Moen’s sac fly in the seventh cut the lead to 5-2 to cap the scoring.
Lakeland head coach Jason Bradbury was suspended for the game after breaking an IHSAA rule by not entering the stats from Monday’s two district tourney games on Max Preps prior to the start of Wednesday’s game. The rule helps coaches monitor opposing team pitch counts and player eligibility.
The interpretation of the IHSAA rule by the District 1 Board of Control of the IHSAA resulted in Lakeland forfeiting Wednesday’s 4-0 Sandpoint win, as well as the suspension of Bradbury for Friday’s championship game.
Interim manager Jeremy Way took over as third base coach, and was proud of the way the Hawks competed in the season-ender.
“We faced a lot of adversity, and we came out and fought hard,” said Way, noting the season series was 3-3 heading into Friday’s tilt. “I knew it would be tough. It didn’t go our way. Max pitched a great game, kept us right in it. We fought hard all day.”
Sandpoint will face either Vallivue (22-4) or Skyview (17-8) in the first round next Thursday in Idaho Falls.
Lakeland 001 000 1 — 2 8 1
Sandpoint 120 200 x — 5 10 2
Tyler Lehman, Preston Pettit (6) and Hunter Donahoe; Max Baker and Colton Aragon. W — Lehman (3-3). L — Baker.
HITS: LL — Clifton, Bradbury 2, Gifford 2, Aragon, Taylor, Grigg. Spt — Lehman 2, Cometto, Flint, Riley 2, Pettit 2, Brackett 2. 2B — Gifford 2, Lehman, Cometto. 3B — Brackett.