Baseball: Wolves trying to get Traxel on track after concussion

LACEY — It was the thud that continues to reverberate through South Kitsap’s baseball program.
And one that junior left-hander Kellen Traxel still is trying to move past nearly three weeks later after he lasted just two innings in Wednesday’s 5-1 loss against Olympia in Class 4A Narrows League play at the Regional Athletic Complex.
On a rainy afternoon March 9, the Wolves moved into the school’s gym for an indoor workout. Shortly after, Traxel suffered a concussion when a batting cage collapsed.
“It really has put us a long ways back,” South coach Jim Fairweather said. “He doesn’t have the snap on the ball. We’re kind of in preseason with him.”
Traxel, who has committed to the University of Washington, struggled with his command from the onset. He walked the first two batters before third baseman Gabe Padukiewicz grounded into a fielder’s choice, which scored lead-off hitter Cabe Reiten. Michael Fairchild followed with an RBI double to right-center field, and after Leo Valenti grounded out, Joey Knight singled to give the Bears a 4-0 lead. Two batters later, Traxel struck out Leif Hansen to end the inning, but he faced eight hitters and threw 37 pitches.
Olympia (6-0 overall, 5-0 league) added another run in the second inning when Padukiewicz doubled to score catcher Jake Hacker, who led off the inning with an infield single.
After watching Traxel throw 58 pitches in two frames, Fairweather replaced him with right-hander Michael Wood. In four innings, Wood faced only one batter more than the minimum. He walked Valenti in the sixth inning.
“First-pitch strikes,” Fairweather said. “That’s what we’re used to. I really like what Wood did.”
Wood’s efficiency was an important aspect because his doctor limited him to two innings — or 40 pitches — due to back issues.
Fairweather said Wood could move into the rotation if he stays healthy. His work helped keep the Wolves (4-3, 3-3) in the game, but the offense struggled to produce against the right-handed Hansen.
They did not send more than three hitters to the plate until the fourth inning when second baseman Kevin Whatley hit a lead-off single. He then scored when shortstop Vince Sablan doubled down the left-field line.
But outside of third baseman Jesse Moore, who went 2 for 3, South struggled to generate any offensive consistency. Hansen needed just 72 pitches — 50 for strikes — to throw a complete game.
Fairweather said he was not concerned about his team being impatient, though.
“We were being too patient,” he said, referring to recent games. “We’re trying to get them to be aggressive.”
For the most part, Fairweather said he was happy with the pitches his players swung at. The Wolves finished with only five hits, but he attributed some of that — hard-hit balls right at defenders — to bad luck.
“We might as well put out lawn chairs for them,” Fairweather said. “We just couldn’t find the holes.”
But he also is concerned that some of his more accomplished players might be pressing at the plate. Fairweather thinks they might feel as if they have “to carry this team.”
“I’m going to have to be a sports psychologist and keep these kids on the level,” he said.
The competition change might help as South moves from the first-place Bears to winless Shelton next week before playing nonleague games Wednesday and Thursday at Post Falls (Idaho) and University, respectively.
At Olympia 5, South Kitsap 1
South Kitsap 000 100 0 — 1 5 1
Olympia 410 000 x — 5 4 0
Kellen Traxel, Michael Wood (3) and Alex Sablan. Leif Hansen and Jake Hacker.
W—Hansen. L—Traxel.
Leading hitters—Jesse Moore (SK) 2-3, Vince Sablan (SK) 1-3 2B RBI, Gabe Padukiewicz (O) 1-3 2B run RBI, Michael Fairchild (O) 1-2 BB 2B RBI.
Olympia 15, at South Kitsap 0 (5)
Olympia 212 91 — 15 14 0
South Kitsap 000 00 — 0 4 3
Trevor Houser and Jake Hacker, Stottlemyer (5). Cory Main, Josh Johnston (4), Taylor Parks (4), Robbie Baker (5) and Alex Sablan.
W—Houser. L—Main.
At Gig Harbor 3, South Kitsap 2 (8)
South Kitsap 100 100 00 — 2 5 0
Gig Harbor 101 000 01 — 3 8 4
Kellen Traxel, Cory Main (4) and Alex Sablan. O’Leary, Alexander (5) and Miller, Morford (5).
W—Alexander. L—Main.
Leading hitters-Alex Sablan (SK) 1-3 2B, Jesse Moore (SK) 2-4 HR 2 RBI, Eibel (GH) 1-2 BB 2B, Gallinger (GH) 2-3 HR RBI.
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