Baseball: South Kitsap's Wood finds niche in bullpen

South Kitsap junior Michael Wood has evolved into the Wolves
South Kitsap junior Michael Wood has evolved into the Wolves' closer
— image credit: Kenny Gatlin photo

It started as an experiment. Now, South Kitsap junior Michael Wood cannot imagine himself anywhere else on the diamond.

Wood was a third baseman two years ago for his South Kitsap Wolfpack team and decided on a whim to try pitching.He never has turned back.

“I was kind of trying pitching out,” Wood said. “Now it’s my favorite thing to do.”

He now has emerged as the Wolves’ closer on a pitching staff that might feature more depth than any point of coach Jim Fairweather’s nine-year tenure. While he said he would prefer to start, Wood enjoys closing out games started by left-hander Kellen Traxel, who has committed to play at the University of Washington, and Josh Johnston.

Fairweather said Wood’s mentality makes him a great fit for the bullpen.

“I just like what he does,” he said. “He knows how to set hitters up and get ahead. He comes out and starts pumping the ball.

“When he comes out he oozes confidence. You like that out of a kid.”

Wood said it has been easy for him to cultivate that mentality.

“When you’ve got a great defense behind you, it’s easy to be fearless,” he said.

The 6-foot Wood does it unconventionally. He releases pitches from a three-quarters arm slot, which he said “helps with the movement of my fastball” that reaches about 85 mph.

“I like to use my fastball to challenge people,” he said. “Make them hit it.”

Wood throws two- and four-seam fastballs, a splitter and curveball. He also has experimented with a slider, but said he has abandoned the pitch for now because of concerns about the strain it puts on his arm.

Fairweather likes that Wood has been able to throw each pitch for strikes. Wood entered the Class 4A Narrows League Tournament with a 2-1 record and a 1.02 ERA. He had 21 strikeouts to just 10 walks.

But Wood still feels that his command can improve.

“I have more walks than I would like,” he said. “I’ve almost been too perfect with my placement.”

Wood might be able to get away with that more if his velocity improves. His brother, Steven, added a couple of inches when he was a senior at South and he feels he might be able to do the same — and add a little to his fastball in the process.

But Wood cautioned that there is much more to pitching than velocity.

“It doesn’t matter how hard you can throw if you can’t place it,” he said.

Wood believes consistency — and confidence — are attributes the Wolves share as they enter the West Central/Southwest Bi-district tournament.

“I’ve played with these guys since I was 10 or 11 years old,” he said. “We know we can get it done. It’s a good atmosphere.”

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