Baseball: Error-plagued Wolves eliminated from state

South Kitsap rarely has been known for hitters with home-run prowess despite winning three state baseball championships.

Instead, coaches within the program long have stressed fundamentals, particularly strong defense, to help it achieve success.

But that was missing Saturday as the Wolves were eliminated from the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs with an 8-3 loss to Newport at Everett Memorial Stadium.

The Knights (18-6) scored twice in the second inning when Keith Van Court hit a two-out, two-run double to right field off left-handed starter Kellen Traxel.

It was one of four doubles the sophomore allowed in just 3 2/3 innings, but South coach Jim Fairweather attributed that more to his team’s defensive woes giving Newport extra opportunities. That occurred in the third inning when a passed ball and two errors helped the Knights take a 3-0 lead when Dan Altchech doubled to left-center field to score Nate Anderson.

South senior second baseman Tanner Romo refused to blame inclement weather, which resulted in the cancellation of four nonleague games and forced numerous contests to be rescheduled and practices moved indoors, for his team’s defensive woes.

“We were rushing ourselves,” he said. “We had time. Four errors is unacceptable.”

The Wolves’ fielding issues did not end during the ensuing inning. With one out, Van Court reached on an error by shortstop Vince Sablan. Lee Stoops, who led off the inning with a double, then scored on a single by Mason Paul. He also crossed home during the next at-bat on an errant throw to third base by catcher Alex Sablan. Two batters later, Anderson doubled to score Billy Sahlinger, who reached base during the previous at-bat on a fielder’s choice. That extended Newport’s lead to 6-0.

“I told them they had to make the everyday plays,” Fairweather said. “We were pressing. That’s not how you play this game.”

South (13-7-1) finally mounted its first challenge against starter Jared Fisher, who faced one hitter more than the minimum through the first three innings. Fisher threw 41 pitches in the fourth and loaded the bases with two outs before a single by sophomore Kevin Whatley scored Vince Sablan. Fisher, a University of Washington signee, then went to a full count against sophomore Thomas Simpson before walking him. That scored Alex Sablan to cut the Knights’ lead to 6-2. But Fisher struck out Doug Yamamoto to end the inning.

“It’s good pitching ... good defense and timely hitting,” said Fairweather, stating his tenants to success at state. “We had a couple of chances and we couldn’t get that hit to really open up our inning. That’s the game at this level.”

The Wolves added another run in the sixth inning when senior Zach Reyes hit a double and later scored on a fielder’s choice by Simpson.

But Newport effectively ended any comeback hopes in the seventh inning when Cole Wiper, who signed with the University of Oregon, hit a two-run single off sophomore Michael Wood.

All three pitchers, Traxel, junior Cory Main and Wood, return along with every infield starter except Romo.

“I don’t want anyone slapping me on the back and telling me to wait until next year,” Fairweather said. “We’re here right now. I don’t like wasting opportunities.”

He relayed that message to his team after the game.

“You had an experience here and it wasn’t positive,” Fairweather said. “Unfortunately, the seniors don’t get another shot at it. For you young guys, it’s 365 more days of getting yourself right back here again and hopefully having a better result.

“I think they’re up for it.”

Newport 8, South Kitsap 3
Newport 021 300 2 8 10 0
South Kitsap 000 201 0 3 8 4
Jared Fisher and Daniel Altchech. Kellen Traxel, Cory Main (4), Michael Wood (7) and Alex Sablan.
W—Fisher. L—Traxel.
Leading hitters—Nate Anderson (N) 2-4 2B 2 RBI; Lee Stoops (N) 2-2 2B; Mike Nelson (SK) 2-4.

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