With playoffs looming, SK cranks it up

After an up-and-down regular season, South Kitsap baseball coach Jim Fairweather is feeling a bit better these days.

“I’d say I’m happy to be here. That’s really the truth,” Fairweather said. “I was concerned at first if we would be and I’m very happy that we’re here and we get this opportunity. Hopefully we’ll do something with it.”

That opportunity begins Saturday for the defending Class 4A state champs in a Narrows League crossover game against Foss at 1 p.m. Saturday at Heidelberg Stadium in Tacoma.

The Wolves closed out their Bridge Division campaign with a 10-4 mark, good enough for second place behind North Kitsap. South, 12-6 overall, played Olympia late Tuesday.

“It’s a little bit like what I had planned for,” Fairweather said. “I was kind of hoping to be the No. 1 team, of course, but that didn’t work out and North deserves it. They went out and earned all their wins.

“But to be the No. 2 team is just about as good in that you don’t have to play the play-in game. We’re not in a loser-out situation, so we can relax and test some things and get kids into the games and keep them sharp.”

Fairweather caught a bit of a break in his scheduling. The May 12 game against Auburn was put in place as a tuneup game for the West Central District Tournament May 15, but a rainout bumped the March 24 game against Olympia to Tuesday, giving the Wolves a game before the League crossover game against Foss.

“I like the idea of not having to lay over all week long just to play one or two games on a Saturday,” Fairweather said.

With the playoffs looming, there seems to be a different air about the Wolves.

“I’m just excited,” Fairweather said. “I’m excited for these kids. If you’ll notice, we’re together, we’re fairly unified. The kids like each other and all of that came out pretty good. That was part of plan, too, to get these guys to get together and believe each other, and I think they do.”

The players, many of whom were not part of the state title run last year, are sensing a change as well.

“I think we’re really going to turn it on for the playoffs,” catcher Brent Nickerson said. “We’ve had a bunch of good games towards the end of the season and I think our momentum is picking up. We’re going to flip that little switch that we kind of needed earlier in the season to get us going. I think we’re going to be a really tough team for other teams to play.”

Fairweather concurs.

“I like the fact that we continue to battle,” Fairweather said. “Early in the season, we had questions about whether we belonged or not. Those questions aren’t there anymore. Now it’s just a matter of taking care of business.”

Which is just what the Wolves have been doing of late.

Going into last Friday’s game against Bremerton, an 18-5 win, the Wolves have been pounding the ball. Senior leftfielder Chris Anderson leads the team with a .526 batting average and has knocked in 21 runs. Nickerson, who Fairweather said is still under everyone’s radar, is hitting .466 with 18 RBI,

Aaron Cunningham is hitting at a .408 , while Pat Kelly is right at .400.

“We’re coming together pretty good,” said Kelly, the team’s shortstop. “Hopefully, we can just go on a run like we did last year. Nothing against last year’s team, but I feel like this year’s team has more athletes and stuff. We just have to get the chemistry we had last year.”

Part of that would be getting Josh Fullington, who struggled with his control for much of the regular season, back to his old form — as appears to be happening just at the right time.

“I feel like we have Fullington back,” Fairweather said. “He looks a little bit and feels a little bit more like himself, which helps all of the guys, too. They’ll get behind him and know that he’s going to throw seeds and when they hit it, they’re going to catch it and get an out and all that just bodes well.”

Fullington had some pop back in his pitches last week as he beat Central Kitsap, 5-3.

“He’s definitely turning it on and getting ready for the playoffs,” Nickerson said. “They couldn’t hit him the other day. His breaking ball was untouchable, and that was good to see.”

“As long as we get ourselves in a position to be there in the end, that’s all you can ask for,” Fairweather said. “And that’s what we have and we’re playing good at the right time.”

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