Greg McCorkle
Sam Hellinger celebrates getting the throw in time in their first victory of the 2013 playoff season.

SLIDESHOW: Two run homer powers West Seattle into number three seed

After a devastating loss to Bainbridge Island to open the post season, the West Siders team game, that had eluded them against Bainbridge, showed up and the Wildcats put together a seven run inning against Ingraham and moved on with a 11-7 victory for the right to meet Eastside Catholic on Friday.

With a pitching duel apparent, and the Crusaders holding on to a one run lead coming into the top of the fifth Graham French #25 singles to bring Tim Adams in to tie the game 1-1. RBI’s by Sam Hellinger and Tim Adams in the sixth make the score 3-1 West Seattle. In the seventh Morgan McCullough’s single added another run getting #28 Ben Wexler across the plate and the game ended in a 4-1 West Seattle win. That left Seattle Prep Panthers on Saturday.

Prep got here by losing to Bainbridge Island on Wednesday. The Panthers had two days rest while the Wildcats needed to battle through the week. Sharpening their skills could be a way of looking at it. Getting comfortable with winning may be another.

Baseball is about being relaxed as much as having skills. Joking and kidding around is so important in a clubhouse that a team that’s too intense can make errors on the field. Baseball is Zen. Deep breath and focus. Relax and have fun. That’s what the Wildcats did before the game on Saturday. Joking and laughing, the boys in blue were almost lackadaisical in appearance in warm ups. That is Velko Vitalich’s way. Don’t be too serious, just have fun and enjoy the moment. But that belied their attitude once the first pitch was thrown. It was all business.

Seattle Prep is a good ball club. They have a fine bullpen, above par fielding, and smart hitters. That’s why they’re in the post season. When you go this deep in the playoffs that’s the type of team you’re going to face, but the Wildcats knew they were a good squad as well. Just relax, have fun, and play smart ball.
With the score tied 0-0 in the top of the fourth Panther infielder #13 Jack Roger hit an RBI single to put Prep on the board with a one run lead 1-0.That score would remain constant for the next inning and a half.
Relax, have fun, and play smart ball. Do these things and good stuff will happen.

In the bottom of the sixth inning Wildcat third baseman Morgan McCullough led off with a sharp single and West Seattle had the tying run 270 feet away. The Prep pitchers were very good all day keeping West Seattle’s on base percentage low but all it takes is one errant pitch to have a good effort collapse. That’s what happened when Sam Hellinger stepped up to the plate and took a fastball that was up in the zone and sent it into the playfield on the other side of the left field fence. The Panther left fielder took two steps and stopped, knowing any effort was futile. All he could do was watch it bounce among the monkey bars and slides. That two run bomb was all that was needed to propel West Seattle into the #3 seed at the state tournament.

After the game coach Vitalich talked about his team. “It’s nice to see them keep believing. My big guys came through big time” referring to Sam Hellinger and shortstop Morgan McCullough “Sam the man pitched an awesome game the day before to get us here and the defense at the end (that) the shortstop made, he’s made then all year. Morgan makes plays that nobody ever made”.

McCullough was honored after the game with the 2013 Josh Dickerson Inspirational Award. Named after O’Dea baseball star Josh Dickerson who passed after losing his battle with cancer. The award is given to the player that best exemplifies the spirit of continuing to live life in the face of adversary. Morgan lost his father in the fall but continued his focus for the sport he loves. As a freshman McCullough not only made the team but became a starter. His exemplary play on the field helped propel West Seattle into the #3 seed and a trip to Mt. Vernon this Saturday to play for the state title.

A visibly emotional Vitalich couldn’t say enough about this young man. “He’s unbelievable for us. He’s an inspirational kid in the way he plays and the way he acts. My dad died at fifty and it was harder than hell on me. I can’t imagine what it’s like on a fourteen year old kid”. Vitalich went on to say “He’s a ninth grader hitting leadoff (and) playing shortstop. Other coaches go what grade is he, is he a senior? Hoping he’s gone. I say no he’s a freshman, he’ll be around for three more years”.

A hand full of games is all that’s needed next week- Earn Everything- that’s the Wildcat way.

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