Baseball: South's bats cool in losses at districts

South Kitsap third baseman Zach Mendiola guns down a runner at first during the Wolves
South Kitsap third baseman Zach Mendiola guns down a runner at first during the Wolves' to Olympia on Saturday in Kent.
— image credit: Jeff Rhodes/Staff Photo

Just call it the Curse of Kent Memorial Park.

At least it feels that way to South Kitsap’s baseball team.

The Wolves entered Saturday’s games in Kent with thoughts of winning the West Central/Southwest Bi-District Tournament after upsetting the state’s second-ranked Class 4A school, Tahoma, earlier in the week.

But a pair of losses – 5-0 against Kentwood and 3-1 versus Olympia – left South (13-6-1) relegated to the No. 4 seed out of districts.

“It was disappointing,” South coach Jim Fairweather said. “I don’t think the same team that played against Tahoma played at all today. That was difficult.”

Perhaps the best news out of that scenario means that the Wolves will not compete at Kent Memorial again this year. Instead, they play at 10 a.m. Saturday against Newport (17-5), which tied Redmond for first place in 4A KingCo Crest, at Everett Memorial. The winner advances to play at the same venue six hours later, while the loser is eliminated.

Two wins that day would send South to the May 27 state semifinals at Cheney Stadium. The 4A championship also is held at the Tacoma Rainiers’ home field at 7 p.m. the following day.

“We’ve had good games up there,” said Fairweather, reflecting on the Wolves winning five of their last six state-playoff contests at Everett Memorial. “Anything can happen this time of the year.”

Fairweather, citing the victory against Tahoma, said his team is capable of advancing to that point. But he said his team must regain its “swag.”

“One run in two games is not what we thought we would be doing,” he said. “We thought offense would be our strongpoint.”

After seven scoreless innings against the Conquerors (15-6), South ended that streak in the first inning against Olympia (18-6). Shortstop Vince Sablan walked and first baseman Mike Nelson followed with a double to right-center field off starter Brady Batt with one out.

Sablan then scored when his twin brother, Alex, grounded out to second to tie the game, 1-all.

But Batt limited the Wolves to just a pair of hits in the ensuing four innings. South’s pitchers were not quite as efficient. The Bears’ first three hitters of the game reached base with shortstop Cabe Reiten scoring on a single by right fielder Cole Loncar.

Starter Cory Main appeared to settle down in the second inning when he retired Olympia in order. But that changed the following inning when Reiten hit a one-out double down the third-base line and then scored when second base Colin Lang hit a bloop single to left-center field.

Main found his way out of that situation when he induced Brad Williams into an inning-ending double play. But he would not be as fortunate in the fourth.

After throwing a ball to Reiten, Fairweather pulled him with the bases loaded – all on walks – and two outs. Senior right-hander Austin Cook entered and struck out with Reiten with the count full.

But it did not come without consequences. Cook, who missed much of the season after being plagued by shoulder problems, complained after that at-bat that his arm was numb.

Fairweather said it is unlikely that Cook will pitch again this season.

Sophomore Michael Wood entered and pitched two innings. He allowed one run in the seventh when third baseman Eric O’Bryan, who had a lead-off single, scored on a balk. Fairweather said it was not the first time Wood has made a positive impression in a difficult situation.

“This is primetime,” he said. “I’ve got to find out who’s ready and who isn’t.”

It appeared that Wood might have an opportunity to end up as the winning pitcher in the sixth inning. Catcher Alex Sablan hit a fly ball off reliever Trevor Houser to center field that looked like a possible two-run home run.

Instead, it dove into the center fielder’s glove just before reaching the warning track. Fairweather said the wind was blowing in from left field, and in addition to Sablan, he said Nelson’s first-inning double could have been a home run under different conditions.

“(This game) can be very unkind to people,” he said. “I know how frustrating it gets.”

The Wolves had another opportunity against Houser in the seventh inning when pinch hitters Kaleb Nelson and Zach Reyes both hit two-out singles. But second baseman Tanner Romo grounded out to end the game.

Kentwood 5, South Kitsap 0
Kentwood 010 400 0 — 5 4 1
South Kitsap 000 000 0 — 0 5 1
Kyle Doyle, Skyler Genger (6) and Reece McGwire. Kellen Traxel, Zach Mendiola (4), Michael Wood (7) and Alex Sablan.
Leading hitters—Cash McGwire (K) 2-3 2 2B, Vince Sablan (SK) 2-3.

Olympia 3, South Kitsap 1
Olympia 101 000 1 — 3 7 0
South Kitsap 100 000 0 — 1 5 1
Brady Batt, Trevor Houser (6) and Casey Thorpe. Cory Main, Austin Cook (4), Michael Wood (5) and Alex Sablan.

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