South showing signs of life

With the South Kitsap baseball season on the verge of heading into oblivion, coach Jim Fairweather did the only thing he could think of. He appealed to his team’s sense of history.

“I sat them down talked about the history of this program, about the people that built it and the respect that we need to have for them,” the third-year coach said. “We need to keep it alive because it’s been here a long dang time and it needs to survive so when they drive by with their kid and look up at that board (that shows all of South’s playoff accomplishments), there’s something up there they can stop and show their kid instead of drive by in shame.”

That appeal, which was made after the Wolves were swept by Olympic during spring break to fall to a very un-South Kitsap-like record of 4-5, worked as well as can be expected as South split its series with Central Kitsap this week.

The Wolves moved to 5-5 overall and 5-3 in Narrows League Bridge Division play and are now in third place, just two games out of first.

The loss Wednesday was Central’s first in division play and left it tied for first with Gig Harbor.

Fairweather said the team had its best practices of the year after his heart-felt talk and, in turn, played its best games of the year. And if not for a 270-foot pop-up that cleared the short porch at Central Kitsap on Tuesday, the Wolves would have put up their best results of the season.

Instead, South lost to the Cougars 6-5 on a two-out, three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning off the bat of Caleb Brown before rebounding to win 5-2 on Wednesday.

South has a two-game series with Gig Harbor beginning Tuesday next week.

“We were hurting, absolutely hurting after (Tuesday’s loss),” Fairweather said. “We knew it, and they knew it – that we played better than they did. We deserved to win and it was just one of those things.

“Every kid took ownership,” he said. “Every kid knew what was at stake and we had a totally different attitude than a week ago. We lost to Olympic and it was like no one could care any less. They were all worried about themselves.”

That’s when Fairweather sat them down and had a heart-to-heart talk with the entire team. His main message was that everyone had to step up and start playing South Kitsap baseball.

“I told them, ‘I haven’t seen South Kitsap until the last two games,’ ” Fairweather said. “This was the team I expected you to be.”

After falling behind 2-0 during Tuesday’s game, South rallied on a Kyle Pease home run and added three more runs to go up 5-2, But Central tagged the Wolves for four seventh-inning runs, including Brown’s three-run shot, to pull out the win.

South’s Zach Jacob continued to carry a hot bat, going 3-4 at the plate with a double, while Kenny Ladenburg had two hits and Kramer Mott and Josh Lounsberry both came up with pinch hit singles and RBI.

Mitch Williams allowed just four hits over five-plus innings and struck out four before being pulled.

With a certain win turning into a loss, South was on the brink of elimination heading into Wednesday’s home game with the Couagrs. But Andrew Thatcher handed in his best pitching performance of the year to help get South right back in the thick of the division race.

“I was feeling the pressure – this is the first time I’ve ever been shaky about a game, like nervous,” Thatcher said. “So this win was really nice. But I’m still kind of shaking from it.”

Thatcher was as solid as he’s been all year, going six and a third innings, scattering seven hits while walking just one and striking out three. His only mistake came in the fifth inning when he hung a changeup that Aaron Johnson bounced off the top of the Wolves’ scoreboard in right field.

“We had to win this game,” Thatcher said. “Every game is important to win but we had to have this game.”

While Thatcher was holding the Cougars down, the South offense continued to show signs of life by pounding out seven hits. Kenny Ladenburg led the way with two hits that drove in two runs while Ian Richardson also had two hits and knocked in one run.

“The beauty of this game is you get rebirth,” Fairweather said. “And these kids were into it (Wednesday). We were into it. I’m hoping that we’ll be the South Kitsap that everyone should have to reckon with.”

South Kitsap 5, Central Kitsap 2

Played April 12 at South Kitsap

Central Kitsap 000 020 0 – 2 7 2

South Kitsap 000 131 x – 5 7 2

Tyler Owens, Zac Brown (6) and Daniel Beckon; Andrew Thatcher, Kyle Pease (7) and Aaron Smoothers. W—Thatcher. L—Owens. Sv—Pease.

Leading hitters: CK — Aaron Johnson 1-4 (HR,2RBI). SK — Kenny Ladenburg 2-4 (2RBI,2b), Ian Richardson 2-3 (RBI,R), Jason Read 1-2 (R).

Central Kitsap 6, South Kitsap 5

Played April 11 at Central Kitsap

South Kitsap 000 003 2 – 5 8 3

Central Kitap 101 000 4 – 6 7 3

Mitch Williams, Kyle Pease (6) and Aaron Smothers; David Stilley, KJ McLean (6) and Daniel Beckon. W—McLean (3-0). L—Pease.

Leading hitters: SK — Kenny Landenburg 2-3 (2R), Kyle Pease 1-4 (HR,2RBI), Zach Jacobs 3-4 (2b,RBI). CK — Tyler Owens 2-3 (HR,RBI), Caleb Brown 2-3 (HR,4RBI).

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