Selah plays RA Long
R.A. Long pitcher Josh Johnson hugs catcher Zac Williams as their teammates celebrate after the Lumberjacks defeated Selah in the 2A State Baseball Championships May 28, 2010 at Yakima County Stadium in Yakima, Wash. ANDY SAWYER / Yakima Herald-RepubICl

YAKIMA — Of course they got lost looking for Davis High School, where they scheduled an infield session before the biggest game of their season, and had to field grounders on the blacktop of the SunDome parking lot instead.

That's what makes this an R.A. Long fairy tale.

The Lumberjacks' history-making, reality-defying baseball season will finally come to end Saturday, when unranked R.A. Long (20-5) takes on top-ranked W.F. West (20-3) at 7 p.m. at Yakima County Stadium for the Class 2A state baseball championship.

And unless you already believed in unicorns, ghosts and Bigfoot, feel free to pick yourself up off the floor and retake your seat.

It's true. Behind another soft-toss masterpiece from their slight-of-build, titanic-of-heart junior left-hander, Josh Johnson, the Jacks beat Selah 3-1 in the semifinals here Friday to earn the baseball program's first-ever crack at a championship.

"Somebody pinch me," said RAL coach Jason Castro.

"It doesn't feel real yet," said senior Jake Look.

"I'm excited. Thankful. I'm kind of at a loss for words," said senior Boston Peterson.

Like many of this journey's prior segments, Friday's victory was a come-from-behind special. But unlike R.A. Long's parade of district and regional wins, it was no slugfest.

There was no early uppercut followed by inning after white-knuckle inning of holding on for dear life, and no ridiculous, last-moment avalanche of home runs.

Just seven clutch innings, executed with painstaking care.

"We've talked about that all season long, about stringing seven innings together," said Castro. "What a time for us to actually do it. What a time to peek."

Throwing change-ups - soft, gooey, Nerf-like change-ups — Johnson handcuffed one of the state's best offenses, throwing a seven-hitter with no walks.

Showing complete disregard for pressure or the program's luckless history, the RAL offense delivered a trio of two-out, RBI base hits. Tanner Chamberlain's liner up the middle scored Austin Wegdahl to tie it in the fourth. Look's gapper to left-center scored Gavin Johnson to make it 2-1 in the fifth. Michael Puvogel's screaming double to the wall scored Jesse Gomez for a 3-1 lead in the sixth.

"That's how it's been with us all year long," Castro said. "We hit with two outs."

Selah's last hurrah came with the requisite moment of fear and loathing for Lumberjack faithful. After Johnson coaxed a groundout, then a pop-out, his pitching counterpart, Vikings junior Trent Douglass, hit a fly ball to Chamberlain in right field.

Chamberlain, who had robbed Douglass of at least a double with a diving catch in the top of the fifth, seemed to have a bead on the victory-clinching out.

But the ball hit his mitt and popped out.

"I was already hopping," Johnson said. "I thought he caught it."

Johnson took a deep breath.

"I figured that as long as I kept (Douglass) at second, we'd be fine," he said. "I went back to my change-up."

In the gathering dusk, Johnson couldn't see catcher Zac Williams' signs at the plate. So he threw four change-ups to the next batter, Allen Noble.

One was a ball. But three, including the final change, were strikes. Noble took a cut at that last one.

It ended up in Williams' glove.

"I don't even know what to say about Josh," said Peterson. "The kid is money."

"That team can swing it," Castro said of Selah. "Josh shut them down. He has a heart the size of Washington."

The Vikings, who were looking for their sixth championship-game appearance since 1990, had more success early than late against Johnson, taking a 1-0 lead on Andrew Gonzalez's two-out triple off left-field wall in the top of the third. The blast was Selah's fifth hit of the game and scored Kurt Lindemann from third.

But Johnson allowed just two base hits the rest of the way, as he and the Jacks tightened things up. Johnson picked off Alex Fickes after the Vikings' leadoff hitter opened the fourth with a single. Chamberlain's diving catch was the first out of the fifth inning, and Look's wind-harassed, shoestring grab in left field was the third out. And Gomez cut off a slow roller from the bat of Gonzalez and gunned him out in a bang-bang play at first to open the sixth.

"Nobody gave us a chance at the beginning," said Look. "But we're not just going to get back on the bus and leave."

Johnson was the last player to exit the RAL locker room and join his teammates as they were raucously received by their fans outside County Stadium.

"I don't even know how to explain it," he said. "I knew you couldn't count us out. It doesn't matter what kind of talent you have. We just ... we don't give up. We don't have the best talent. We might have the best team."

W.F. West beat Archbishop Murphy 7-6 in the first semifinal Friday.


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