Wolves inch closer to state title

South Kitsap High School baseball has long been recognized as a perrenial state powerhouse.

But when the the No. 2 ranked Wolves set foot in Cheney Stadium for the 4A state semifinal game against No. 4 Woodinville on Friday at 4 p.m., it will be a first for current SK players.

If SK defeats Woodinville, it will play the Richland/Federal Way winner on Saturday at 7 p.m. for the state title.

If the Wolves lose to Woodinville, they would play the loser of the other game for third place Saturday at 1 p.m.

SK coach Elton Goodwin, on the other hand, knows Cheney Stadium and can’t wait to get back.

After earning a pair of 2-1 victories against Edmonds-Woodway and Eastlake Saturday at Tacoma’s Heidelberg Park, SK assured Goodwin a return trip to the stadium where he earned a state championship in 1996.

Cheney Stadium hasn’t always been SK’s good luck charm, though.

In 1999, SK defeated Kent-Meridian in the opening round of the state tournament but lost its quarterfinal game to Columbia River 6-2 — the last game SK has played at Cheney.

Whether the team has won or lost at the stadium, Goodwin said he is fired up and the players are thrilled as well.

“This is such a thrill to go back to Cheney Stadium,” Goodwin said. “I love that place. It’s so neat to be in that place to play. I didn’t even know if I’d (be there) again. I tell my players how neat it is because they haven’t been there.”

While there is excitement about making it to the final four, Goodwin said it will be all business.

It’s a business trip SK players are looking forward to.

“We worked all year for this,” SK senior Josh Showers said. “We talked about this and finally we’re there now and we have two games left.”

The secret of SK’s success has been no secret.

Goodwin said all year the team’s success will be predicated on solid pitching and stellar defense.

That’s exactly what thrust the Wolves into the state semifinals.

SK ace Dan Knox (11-1) was masterful on the mound against Edmonds-Woodway.

The senior kept the opposing batters off balance all game and let his defense make the plays, especially when Edmonds-Woodway threatened to score in the fifth inning.

E-W’s Chris Minaker, who is Stanford-bound, led off the inning with a triple.

Travis Torgeson stepped to the plate with a great opportunity to tie the game.

But Torgeson pulled the ball down the third base line.

Senior third baseman Travis Vetters alertly fielded the ball and tagged Minaker out as he tried to make it back to third base.

Vetters then had the presence of mind to throw over to first base to complete the double play.

That proved to be the play of the game, as Knox finished with a complete-game four-hitter.

Vetters, who had both RBIs in the game, continued his torrid day with a brilliant pitching performance against Eastlake, giving up three hits while striking out eight.

Despite his performance, Eastlake was equally impressive on the mound and held a 1-0 lead through three innings.

But SK managed to load the bases in the fourth inning.

Wth two outs, Joel Goodwin hit a high chopper off the plate and dove head first into first base where he was called safe in a bang-bang play.

Andy Sund’s groundout ended the threat.

Goodwin continued his clutch hitting in the sixth inning.

Josh Meeker got the inning rolling with a single down the third base line.

Pinch runner Jeff Goodwin advanced to second base on Ryan Focht’s balk and took third base on Brandon Nickerson’s sacrifice bunt.

Up stepped Joel Goodwin, who drew two strikes before he pulled the ball down the third base line to score his brother for a 2-1 lead.

Vetters allowed base runners on first and second in the seventh inning, but he wiggled his way out with a pair of groundouts and a pop fly to clinch the victory.

Vetters said he knew he needed to stay mentally tough the entire game.

“It’s great when your team scores, but when (the score) is 1-1 or 0-1 you gotta be nails,” Vetters said. “You have to give your team a chance to win.”

Elton Goodwin said he couldn’t have been happier with the way his squad played.

“What a day for Travis Vetters,” Goodwin said. “He showed his athleticism today. I’m very proud of Joel. That was a huge hit, and that slide into first base, that was effort there.”

The concensus from SK players is if the offense steps up this weekend, there’s no question who the state champion will be.

“Pitching and defense has been carrying us,” Showers said. “I really don’t see too many teams that can hit like us. It’s just a matter of bringing our hitting shoes.”

Vetters said solid hitting will be the final piece of the puzzle.

“I think we’ve got a really good chance,” Vetters said. “Our pitching and defense is solid. If we get our bats going we’re unstoppable.”

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