It was a tightrope finish that would’ve made the famous daredevil Nik Wallenda proud. Bothell held off a furious rally by Eastlake to claim a 6-5 win on May 6. The victory advanced the Cougars to the Kingco Championship game against Woodinville May 9.
In the game’s early stages it seemed the Cougs would cruise to easy victory. In the top of the first, shortstop Cameron Costa ripped a line drive single past the diving shortstop to drive in Daniel Fredrickson and Cameron Gale, to stake Bothell to a 2-0 lead.
It stayed that way until the third inning, during which there was some controversy followed by fireworks.
With two Bothell runners aboard and two outs, Costa was up again. He slashed a grounder deep into the hole at short and raced up the first base line for what promised to be a bang-bang play. To many fans who saw it, the throw seemed to nip him in time -- but the umpire ruled him safe. Gale scored on the play from third, making the score 3-0. Next up was senior third baseman Camden McLeod. And the big guy turned on a pitch and hit a towering fly ball deep down the line in left field. It kept arcing and carrying before finally sailing over the fence for a 3-run dinger. The scoreboard now read: Bothell 6, Eastlake 0.
"In my first at-bat I had struck out and I was way too long with my swing," McLeod said later. "The second time up, it was a 1-0 count and I was looking for a fastball and I got one down the middle of the plate. I took advantage of it."
The homer gave Bothell starting pitcher Colby Nealy a comfortable 6-0 cushion. But Eastlake refused to wave the white flag, and began to chip away. The Wolves chased Nealy in the bottom of the 4th with 3 runs, to slice the deficit in half, 6-3.
Bothell senior Evan Harder replaced Nealy, and then he and teammates hunkered down for the wild finish.
In the bottom of the 6th, Eastlake got 2 runs, and now trailed only 6-5. By the next inning, bottom of the 7th, it was do-or-die time for the Wolves.
With runners on first and third and two outs, tension ran high as Harder was walking the tightrope. Bothell manager Paul Moody called time out and went out to the mound to powwow with his pitcher.
"Coach was telling me to be myself and do what I can do," Harder said. "It was a nerve-wracker."
The next batter for Eastlake was Ryan Teasell. Early in the count, Harder threw him a fastball down the middle of the plate. Teasell turned on it and hit a sharp grounder toward third. But Camden McLeod was there to field it cleanly and fire it to first, for the game’s final out.
Fervent cheering erupted from Bothell fans as the Cougar players and coaches celebrated on the field with high-fives and backslaps. Meanwhile, the somber Eastlake players saw their title hopes dissolve in defeat. But for Bothell, this win enabled them to square off May 9th against Woodinville for the Kingco Championship.
"We came through with a team effort and I’m happy that we did it," Harder said, looking profoundly relieved and happy. "Now we’ve got Woodinville for the championship. I wouldn’t want to play anybody else."