Wolves’ season fizzles in drizzle

Saturday was the day the miracles stopped for South Kitsap.

Having staged an extra-inning comeback win over Puyallup on Friday that invoked memories of last year’s magical run to a state 4A baseball title, the Wolves seemed poised to do the same to Kentwood on Satuday after overcoming a 6-1 deficit in the seventh inning.

But when the dust settled, SK’s season had come to a disappointing end with a 7-6 loss in the West Central District playoffs at Kent Memorial Park.

Fittingly, the decisive play was a fielding error, as the Conquerers’ Cody Bartlett scored from third base on a hard-hit grounder bobbled by SK shortstop Pat Kelly in the bottom of the eighth inning.

“Fielding has been our Achilles heel all season long,” said Wolves’ coach Jim Fairweather. “I guess we can’t be too surprised.”

In all, SK committed six errors during the contest — played during a persistent drizzling rain. “I wish I could say the conditions had something to do with it,” Fairweather said. “But typically, wet conditions result in throwing errors. Most of our errors came just trying to catch the ball.”

The Wolves got on the scoreboard first, thanks to some sloppy fielding by Kentwod. Kelly, SK’s leadoff hitter, opened the game with a grounder that Kentwood second baseman Ricky Reavis booted. After a sacrifice bunt by Victor Moore, Kelly scored on a booming double by Aaron Cunningham off the Conquerers’ Matt Hague.

Kentwood answered in the bottom of the inning as Bartlett stroked a one-out double and Hague followed with a single to right that Cunningham over-ran for a two-base error.

South starter Matt Hudson kept the Conquerers at bay for the next four innings, including pitching his way out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the third. “He wasn’t overpowering,” Fairweather said, “but he never is. He keeps people off-balance. When you have a curveball and changeup like he does, that’s how you have to pitch. Under the circumstances, I thought he pitched great today.”

In the fifth, Kentwood’s Nathan Soper roped a two-out single to score Bartlett, who had singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on another SK fielding error.

The Conquerers then seemingly broke the game open with four runs in the sixth. Leadoff batter Josh Christensen reached on an error to short and Hudson followed with three consecutive walks to make the score 3-1 and still no outs.

“(Hudson) just ran out of gas there at the end,” Fairweather said. “He’d thrown a ton of pitches earlier in the game getting out of jams, and it finally caught up with him.”

Hudson was lifted for reliever James Nelson, who recorded a quick pop-up out but then hit the next batter to score another run. Hague followed with a grounder to second that might have been a double play, but the relay to first was overthrown and two more runs scored, giving Kentwood a 6-1 advantage with three outs left to play.

In the seventh, however, SK’s Craig Senter and Kelly both got aboard with one out after being plunked by Hague, who threw a total of 126 pitches on the day. With one out and two on, pinch hitter Jonathan Hunter lined an RBI single to right and Cunningham followed with a double to left center that scored two more.

Following a strikeout by SK designated hitter Chris Anderson, catcher Brent Nickerson singled to make the score 6-5 and first baseman Steve Lucy knotted the game with a double to the wall in left-center.

“That said a lot about our team right there,” Fairweather said. “A lot of guys would have folded at that point. But we kept scratching and clawing and got back into the game. You have to be proud of kids who play like that.”

The Wolves had a chance to take the lead in their half of the eighth, with a runner on third and one out. But Moore — who had made a gorgeous diving catch in left field a half-inning earlier — ended the threat by hitting into a double play.

Kentwood settled the issue in the bottom of the eighth as Bartlett came through with a one-out double and dashed home one out later when Hague’s grounder to short was mishandled.

“It’s a tough way to lose — especially after we battled to get back into the game,” Fairweather said. “But what can you say? These guys worked hard and battled adversity the whole season, and I think they accomplished a lot of things they can be proud of. They’ve got nothing to be ashamed of at all.”

n South Kitsap 3, Puyallup 2 (11 innings): Josh Fullington threw nine strong innings while Craig Senter and Pat Kelly had key hits to keep the Wolves season alive in a game played Friday in Tacoma.

Fullington, in what would be his last start of his high-school career, allowed just two runs and eight hits over nine innings while striking out six in getting a no decision. James Nelson threw two innings of relief to pick up the win.

Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth and with two outs, Senter laced a single to center and later stole second. Kelly, down to his last strike hit a laser to right field that scored Senter and tied the game. The Wolves won it in the 11th when Dan Dillard doubled and later scored on a booted ball of the bat of Victor Moore.

Brent Nickerson went 3-5 in the game with a stolen base and threw out two runners trying to steal. Aaron Cunningham was 3-for-5.

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