The night before Puyallup Vikings pitcher Lane Griffin took the mound against the South Kitsap Wolves in the Class 4A West Central/Southwest Disrict championship game, he popped in one of his favorite movies — “The Sandlot” — into his DVD player.
The baseball film, which rose to fame in the early 1990s, set Griffin at ease before the title contest.
“The movie reminds me of why we play the game, and that kind of took the pressure off. I have had a couple of starts this year where I was feeling the pressure. Today I just let it go,” Griffin said.
Griffin pitched all five innings, allowing just two hits and no runs in the Vikings’ (24-0) convincing 10-0 win against South Kitsap May 17 at Kent Memorial Park. Puyallup’s Tyler McDowell went 3-for-3 at the plate and finished with a game-high 5 RBI. Levi Jordan went 2-for-4 with 2 RBI; first baseman Quinn Rawson had 2 RBI as well. The Vikings scored five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and tacked on four more runs in the bottom of the fifth, turning what was once a close game into a blowout. Puyallup finished the contest with 10 hits.
“Everyone just came out swinging today, and everyone was just on their game,” McDowell said. “We noticed in BP (batting practice) today that I was a little too close to the plate, and I was jamming myself. So today the key for me was I just stepped back about an inch, and it helped me a lot.”
Vikings head coach Marc Wiese was pleased with Griffin’s showing on the mound and his hitters’ ability to make contact at the plate.
“Lane did a great job. He has been gritty for us all year,” Wiese said. “The offense has came around quite a bit for us. These guys right now are loose, and we’re having fun. There is no pressure on this team. We’re 24-0, and we are all in. I’m pretty proud of these guys.”
NEEDHAM LIFTS PUYALLUP TO DRAMATIC VICTORY
It was one of those games where nothing was going according to plan for the Puyallup Vikings. Base runners were picked off. Hard-hit balls seemed to head directly to fielders. Yet despite the adversity the Vikings still had a chance to win with the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 10th inning against the Gig Harbor Tides on May 13.
“He is just amazing. I don’t think any other high school pitcher goes 10 innings. He is just unreal,” Needham said of Heimlich.
Wiese concurred with the sentiment.
“Luke got better as the game went on. He’s that kid that just wants it. He kind of refused to allow us to lose the baseball game today,” Wiese said. “He was obviously the difference-maker.”
Heimlich said he felt no signs of fatigue through the 10 innings and 124 pitches.
“My body is tired now, but I definitely felt like my arm was getting stronger as the game went on. I was able to locate even a little better, and my fast ball was picking up velocity,” Heimlich said. “If my arm was hurting or anything, I would had told them and they would had taken me out. We’re really cautious about it, but I felt like I was getting stronger so there was no reason to take me out when I kept getting better. You work all off-season to throw in a game like this, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity.”