Sports

Thatcher keeps SK in the hunt

It’s a testament to just how much a player is liked when he can not only hang out at his coach’s house but eat whatever he finds in the fridge.

But that’s part of the relationship that South Kitsap baseball coach Jim Fairweather has with the ace of the pitching staff, Andrew Thatcher.

And Thatch, as he is known around the SK halls, has done everything he can to repay that trust by keeping the Wolves firmly entrenched in the Narrows League Bridge Division playoff race.

“He’s a terrific kid – he has a good heart,” Fairweather says of Thatcher. “He’s the kind of kid I like having around. And he is around. He comes to my house and visits all the time. He and my daughter (Alex) are pretty good friends, so he comes to my house and eats my food — and I don’t let everyone in to do that.”

Thatcher may have his choice of dinners for a while at the Fairweather table after his performance last week against Central Kitsap. Facing a must-win game to keep pace with the rest of the division, and coming off the heels of a heartbreaking 6-5 loss the day before, Thatcher turned in his best outing of the year and got the Wolves a 5-2 win.

That win moved South to 5-5 overall and 5-3 in division play, good enough for third place heading into this week’s two-game series with league-leading Gig Harbor.

Thatcher, a senior lefthander, went six and a third innings and scattered seven hits while walking just one and striking out three to get the win.

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.

None of that really comes as a surprise, as Thatch was the Wolves’ best pitcher last year. But he has struggled at times this year.

Still, Fairweather was confident enough in him to not only put him in a pressure situation, but make sure he knew just how big that game would be.

I put it on him earlier in the day,” Fairweather said. “Nobody had the pressure on them like I put on Thatcher.”

The coach laid it all out for him, from his poor earned run average to the fact that he hadn’t gotten much done in South’s big games this year.

In fact, Fairweather told him if he couldn’t get it done, then he would have to accept whatever role was given to him for the remainder of the season.

“He really had it on his plate that this was make-or-break time,” Fairweather said. “And he talked the talk and walked the walk. And he did it.”

Despite feeling the pressure, and Thatcher freely admitted he did, he responded in the only way he knew of – fighting his way to the win.

“Last year was the first time I had ever had to feel something like that, and I did it (beating North Kitsap on the last game of the regular season to get SK into the playoffs),” Thatcher said. “I knew I had already felt (that kind of pressure).”

At first glance, Thatcher doesn’t seem to be a bulldog. He is about having fun and always seems to be laughing at something. But when it’s time to play, there aren’t too many around as competitive as he is.

And when he hit the mound last week, he said he was nervous and scared and he has never been scared before. In fact, he said his knees were buckling a little bit.

In a age where most kids wouldn’t even begin to admit to having feeling like that, Thatcher boldly tells how bad he felt after giving up the two-run homer that gave Central the lead. And how he turned to his team and apologized for it and asked them to give him another chance to win the game.

“It was my fault, and I told them, ‘The next one’s coming to you guys. I’m going to get the next one down they’re going to get their chance to get their plays in,’” Thatcher said. “I’m not going to be able to do it without them – I give more credit to players behind me.”

After the home run, Central managed just two singles off Thatcher, and he ended up with the win.

And in the process, turned both his and the team’s season around. Which should be good enough for at least another week’s worth of the Fairweather’s food.

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