Auburn beats Peninsula to win 3A district baseball title

Auburn's Tanner Hanson (left) and Colton Anardi douse head coach Gordie Elliott after beating Peninsula 3-1 to go on Saturday 14 .

Auburn’s Tanner Hanson (left) and Colton Anardi douse head coach Gordie Elliott after beating Peninsula 3-1 to go on Saturday 14 .

Two teams on similar Legacy missions collided at Auburn High on Saturday night.

The District 3/4 baseball championship game was simply the next step for the Peninsula Seahawks and Auburn Trojans, who face what could be the first of two titanic duels between these programs over the next three weeks.

Give the first round to NPSL champion Auburn, who defeated the Seahawks 3-1 on his home field for the district title. Both teams advance to Regionals next weekend, where they will not be paired at the same venue.

Both could still advance to the final four of the state tournament on May 27-28, where they could meet again for the final prize: a state title.

“It’s a step,” said Auburn coach Gordie Elliott. “But we still have a few steps to take. Our goal is to win the national championship and only one team can do that. We still have more steps to take to be that team.”

Peninsula dedicated this season to former star Caleb Wanaka, who would have been a senior in that squad had it not been for his death in a road accident last summer. The Trojans look to continue the same march their basketball brothers made in March and end the year with another state championship trophy for Bob Jones High School’s trophy cabinet.

It was relatively easy for both teams to reach the final on Saturday.

Auburn hit three homers and Colton Anardi threw a full game to beat Bainbridge 6-2 in the first semifinal of the day. Peninsula followed with a 5-2 win over Silas in the second semifinal, breaking out for four runs in the third inning and driving home behind Gavin Sheets, who also threw a full game against the Rams.

That pitted the champions of the NPSL vs. South Sound Conference against each other for the two-district crown.

It didn’t take long for the scoring to start. Anardi, who was in the lineup as the designated hitter after his pitching win in the semifinals, hammered the second pitch, which he carried off the top of the second inning, into the net over the left field wall for a solo home run and a quick 1 : 0-lead to achieve .

“Felt good,” said Anardi. “You always want to score first, get the momentum going. We got it going and it stayed there for the rest of the game.”

Auburn (20-5) built on the advantage in the third, grabbing a leadoff double from catcher Brandon Zadow and then using two walks and two wild pitches from Peninsula starter Hunter Bennett to add another pair of runs and the lead expand to 3 -0.

That was all Amari Goodfellow needed. The junior eclipsed his longest game of the season so far at 6.1 innings, established just a few weeks ago, by throwing a full game against the Seahawks (16-7).

“I just loved it,” Goodfellow said. “You know, it’s the first time we’ve been in the playoffs in a while and I was ready to go. I was ready to compete.”

Goodfellow hit one of the three home runs the Trojans hit in their semi-final win over Bainbridge while playing his regular pitch in midfield during that game. The four home runs for the day tied the total that Auburn had hit on their home field all season.

“The ball just didn’t carry, the air was so cold,” Elliott said. “Then we suddenly reached four today. The air is starting to warm up, so that’s good.”

The Seahawks got their one run back into the bottom quarter thanks to Payton Knowles’ leadoff single, Stolen Base, and advanced to third with a ground out and two-out error that allowed Reece Brown to secure first place to reach and to score Knowles.

Peninsula then placed the first two runners on base in the fifth, sending Ben King to the plate. King landed the ball in third where it was caught and thrown to second for the first out.

Justin Grande, the runner going from first to second, slipped briefly but came up right in the line of a possible throw for a doubles game. Even without a throw, the referee, second in hand, immediately signaled interference on Grande, awarding the doubles game and bringing Landon Pate, who had advanced to third on the plate, back to second, effectively ending every rally.

“I can’t say anything that we didn’t do well,” said Peninsula coach Michael Johnson. “It’s just baseball. Sometimes the ball falls towards you, sometimes not. There really isn’t anything we could have done differently.”

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