Derek Lohr was ready. No doubt about it.
The Bothell High senior didn’t need many pitches to prepare for his relief appearance in the bottom of the sixth inning of Tuesday night’s 4A KingCo baseball championship game against Issaquah High at Bannerwood Park in Bellevue.
It would take a batter before things fell into place, though. Runners on first and second with one out and a slim 1-0 lead turned into a bases-loaded situation after Lohr — who took the mound after playing shortstop — walked his first batter.
After striking out the next batter, Lohr energetically pumped his fist. A sharp grounder to first for the third out brought cheers galore from the Bothell players and fans.
An inning later, the Bothell side erupted with a dog pile when the Cougars notched a double play to secure the 2-0 win and grab its first league title since 2011 and earn a state berth. Bothell (16-7) was seeded fourth in the tournament and knocked off the No. 1 seed (Mount Si) and No. 2 seed (Issaquah).
Bothell will play Kennedy Catholic at 10 a.m. May 20 at Foss High in the opening round at state.
After being hit by a pitch with two outs in the seventh, Bothell’s Trent Carlin eventually scored from third on a pitch that bounced off the catcher’s glove and away from the plate. Dylan Gerard sent Carlin to third by spraying a single up the right field line.
Lohr assessed his team’s performance after the Cougars lifted the championship trophy.
“Oh, man, it was crazy. I’ve been going out and competing every day at practice, and you know, it shows up here in the game,” said Lohr, noting that assistant coach Paul Moody got him ready in the bullpen in between innings.
Lohr said he felt comfortable on the mound when the ball was put in his hands against Issaquah’s strong hitters.
He added that Bothell’s hitting has been the key this season.
“It’s showing here in the playoffs. Coming around, everybody’s hitting and it’s really all coming together at once,” he said. “Coming in here, we were fighting to make the playoffs. And it was that thing, ‘We made the playoffs, we’re at the playoffs, why not go get it? Why not go get the championship?’”
Jackson Gould earned the win with five and one third innings of solid pitching. Gerard, Austin Baek and Bryce Long had two hits each for Bothell.
Bothell took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning on a Brody Ponti sacrifice fly to score Baek, who doubled to start the frame.
Added Bothell head coach Kent Schaefer: “I think our kids were very excited to be here. I think as a coaching staff, we were trying to make sure they stayed calm and stayed in the moment and didn’t get too far ahead of themselves.”
Schaefer said that Bothell played in many “thin sliced,” close games this season that helped prepare the Cougars for the playoffs.
“We were right in it. Their guy pitched a great game, our guy pitched a great game,” said Issaquah coach Rob Reese, whose squad is 16-6. “Unfortunately, they got one sac fly and we didn’t, and then that last run they scored… We had a couple shots, we left nine guys on base, but their pitcher did a good job.”
Reese added that in practice on Wednesday, the guys will try and get their swings back on track.
“You just want your guys to execute and be successful,” he said.
Issaquah will play Mount Si for a state spot at 7 p.m. Thursday at Bannerwood.
For Issaquah, Corey Chaplin, Drew Feldman (double), Mack Mahovlich, Shane Thomas and Justin Buckner had hits. Pitcher Jared Jongejan went the distance with a strong performance.