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Baseball: Wolves pound three homers in laugher over Bellarmine
The South Kitsap High School baseball team still has some ground to make up and not much time left to do so. But Coach Jim Fairweather has considered all the possibilities and believes the numbers add up for his team.
Fairweather noted the Wolves' record stood at 9-2 after its 10-1 pasting of visiting Bellarmine Prep on Wednesday night — good for third place in the Narrows League behind Olympia and Gig Harbor with two regular season games left on its schedule.
"But we're only a half game out of first place," he said, "and Gig Harbor and Olympia play each other twice this weekend. If they split those two games, we're in a three-way tie, and I like our chances."
Assuming the Wolves continue to play like they did against Bellarmine, there's little not to like about their chances in the Narrows League.
On Wednesday, SK got a huge lift from left-handed starter Kellen Traxel, who gave up no runs through four innings before surrendering a leadoff home run to Daniel Pallasto in the fifth and being lifted with a 2-1 count on the ensuing batter when he developed a blister on his middle finger.
"He's had problems with blisters before, and this time it actually popped open on him," Fairweather said. "I just hope he's OK to pitch next time we need him."
Traxel took a pounding eight days earlier as the Wolves were trounced 14-3 by Olympia.
"After that game, I had a sit-down pow-wow with him," Fairweather said. "I told him he was too good a pitcher to pitch that badly. I told him to stop thinking so much and just go out there and have fun. Evidently he listened, because he was a totally different pitcher tonight. He pitched with a ton of confidence."
As did reliever Brad Young, who hurled three innings of shutout ball for the Wolves after Traxel was forced to depart.
"I was really proud of the way (Young) pitched out there, too," Fairweather said. "He's like all the rest of our pitchers — for some reason we don't have guys who just blow you away, but they pitch to contact and let the defense make plays behind them."
In addition to their pitching prowess, the Wolves got two-run homers from Mike Nelson, D’Aundray Van Slyke and Tanner Romo. "We're hitting the ball really, really well right now," said Fairweather, who couldn't recall ever seeing three homers in one game during his coaching career.
Fairweather noted that Nelson, who also added an opposite-field double, is currently raking at better than a .600 clip.
"He continues to be a total beast right now," the coach said.
SK started the scoring barrage early against the Lions, as Vince Sablan scored from third on a wild pitch and Nelson came home on a sacrifice fly to center off the bat of Van Slyke in the first inning.
After Traxel worked out of a based-loaded jam in the top of the third by striking out Michael Ota, Nelson came up in the bottom of the inning and hammered a fastball over the fence in right center with Sablan aboard to go up 4-0.
"You don't very often see a home run hit out there," Fairweather said. "He just crushed it."
The Wolves followed a similar pattern in the fourth, as Traxel walked the bases full with one out in the top of the inning but wriggled off the hook by inducing a home-to-first fielder's choice out from Harry Stenberg and striking out Ryan Hayes.
In the bottom of the frame, the Wolves went ahead 5-0 when Sablan scored again, this time ahead of Nelson's double to right. Van Slyke scored via a wild pitch in the fifth, and he and Romo both slugged two-run homers in the sixth to break the game open.
"We're clicking in all phases of the game right now," Fairweather said. "We're hitting the ball well, we're getting solid pitching and, best of all, we're playing really good defense.
"If you'd told me we'd average only about one error a game considering we've had so much rain this spring we've only been able to practice outside a handful of times," he said, "I'd have said you were crazy."
South closes its regular season with two games against Central Kitsap — on the road April 25 and at home on April 27 — before the Narrows League playoffs start on May 5.
"If we take care of our business and get just a little bit of help, I really like our chances this year," Fairweather said. "We're peaking at just the right time."