SK dynamic duo exceeds even its own expectations

Life is full of pleasant little surprises. And this year, Jim Fairweather got two.

The first-year coach of the South Kitsap baseball team had a pretty good idea what he would get out of Brent Nickerson and Matt Hudson this year. He just didn’t know how much.

“I’m very pleased with them,” Fairweather said at Thursday practice. “That was a nice thing to happen.”

As the Wolves get ready to make a run at defending their Class 4A state title this weekend, Nickerson and Hudson are just two of the reasons for the team’s success.

South played Puyallup late Friday in a West Central District game in Tacoma. If South won, it will face the winner of the Hudson’s Bay-Kentwood matchup today either in Kent or Vancouver. The winner of that game advances to next week’s regional round of the state playoffs.

But the success of the team, 13-7 entering the weekend, comes in part from two guys just as surprised at their numbers as anyone.

Nickerson sat out his junior year, recovering from a hip injury. Hudson was going nowhere in the classroom or on the field. All that changed quickly.

“When we were putting together our team and our lineup, we knew we had some question marks at catcher,” Fairweather said of Nickerson. “He’s made it his spot. He’s just done a nice job overall of hitting and running the show out there. He’s not a real talkative kind of guy, but he’s getting it done and he’s working hard.”

Nickerson enters this weekend batting .481 with 19 RBI. He has drawn six walks at the plate and leads the team in sacrifices.

“It’s not what he wants to do. I know it’s not,” Fairweather said. “Some of the best catchers, you just have to like being back there getting beat up and getting dirty, and that’s not neseccarily his bag. But because we’ve asked him to, he’s done it. And for that, I appreciate it.”

“I didn’t see him hitting .500,” Fairweather said. “I thought he’d hit .400, but he’s closer to .500 than I thought he’d be. He’s shown power and really good discipline. He’s knocked in a ton of runs for us that I wasn’t really expecting from him.”

Nickerson said he was confident in his ability to play and contribute, but his numbers are a surprise to him as well.

“They’re definitely above where I thought they would be,” Nickerson said. “My goal this year was to bat .400 and I always try to set my goals a little bit high.

“It’s just taking all the things I do (in practice) seriously, all the drills and stuff,” Nickerson said. “And having confidence at the plate. Once you get your first couple of hits, you start getting into a groove and getting confident, and it’s kind of just kept going.”

Hudson became even more valuable in the middle of the season, winning key games to keep the Wolves in the thick of the Narrows League race.

“We needed another guy,” Fairweather said. “And he’s done everything he’s supposed to. He works really hard. He’s earned everything he’s got.”

Hudson, a junior, leads the team in wins with a 6-1 record and carries an ERA of 2.82, striking out 30 batters in 40 innings of work.

“I’ve tried to keep people off-balance and pitch the way I want to pitch,” Hudson said. “Just don’t let (the opponent) change what I’m doing. I didn’t think I would do this good.”

Again, confidence is playing a huge role.

“That really helps because without confidence you get nowhere,” Hudson said. “Confidence is what really keeps everyone going. Getting off to that type of start just showed me that I can play up here and I can do good.”

The two have helped each other through the season as well, being battery mates.

“I like having someone like (Brent) behind the plate,” Hudson said. “Knowing that he wants to call the same pitches I want to throw.”

“It’s nice to know that he’s going to put the ball where I call for it,” Nickerson said. “I have confidence in him, and that gives me more confidence behind the plate.”

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