Next four games will make or break post-season hopes

Things are just not going to get any easier for the South Kitsap baseball team.

Even though the Wolves battled back from a two-game losing skid to light up Gig Harbor 11-6 on Wednesday afternoon and hang onto second place in the Narrows League Bridge Division, their next four games will be the deciding factor as to their position for the upcoming playoffs.

And if they make the playoffs.

The Wolves, who split their series with the Tides this week, losing 5-4 Tuesday before taking the second game Wednesday at home, have a Monday-Tuesday series with Port Angeles. South then faces North Kitsap on Saturday and Monday to close out the regular season.

And these four games will go a long way in determining the Wolves’ post-season fate.

“This is a huge two-game series for us,” South coach Jim Fairweather said. “We can go from feast to famine in these four games, and we know that.”

South (11-3, 7-3) and Central Kitsap (11-4, 7-3) enter the final two series of the year tied for second behind North Kitsap (13-1, 10-0), while Port Angeles (10-3, 5-3) and Gig Harbor (9-7, 6-4) are lurking right behind.

PA, which played a pair of makeup games late Thursday and Friday, could vault into sole possession of second place with two wins entering the final two weeks of the regular season.

South has yet to lose a series this year, following the new two-game series format. After sweeping Bremerton and Shelton to start league play, South has split series with Olympic, Central Kitsap and now Gig Harbor.

A pair of splits next week won’t necessarily eliminate the Wolves, but a sweep of at least one of them will help a lot.

“I do know this: If we sweep PA, that puts us in a good spot,” Fairweather said. “But it’s like loser-out and I’m trying to get these guys thinking that way because pretty soon we’ll be there. I’m hoping we’ll be there and we need to get that mentality. We gotta grow up in a hurry here.”

That much was evident on Wednesday when South jumped out to a quick 10-1 lead on Gig Harbor and was one pitch away from ending the game by the 10-run mercy rule in the bottom of the fifth. But the Tides fought back and made a game out of it, which prompted Fairweather to question his team’s ability to finish.

“I don’t know why they think (the game’s over) sometimes but it’s all about maturity and finishing and playing the whole game,” Fairweather said. “And as soon as we start playing seven innings, we’re going to be tough as nails. If we’ll play like that the whole game, no one will have an answer for us.”

South erupted for six runs in the second inning of Wednesday’s game and added four more in the third. And it was the top of the lineup that did the damage, as Kyle Pease, Dan Dillard and Zach Jacob each had two hits from the top three spots.

“This game, we came out with a lot of intensity,” Jacob said. “But after we got a huge lead, we just kind of assumed we were going to win or something. We have to keep the intensity up and finish. Finish is big.”

Junior pitcher Andrew Thatcher picked up his fourth win of the season but labored at the end, giving way to Jason Read, who got the final four outs. Thatcher pitched five and two-thirds innings, allowing six runs on six hits while striking out seven and walking four.

“I thought Thatcher threw really well,” Fairweather said. “Maybe he got tired there at the end. (But) Read got up on the hill and really got after them, and I appreciate that. He hasn’t pitched since (the second game of the year), and that makes me feel like I need to use him a little more.”

South’s win came on the heels of a one-run loss in Gig Harbor that saw the Wolves rally from a 5-2 seventh-inning deficit to almost pull off the win. Jacob said it was the intensity the teamed played with in the final inning that carried over to Wednesday’s hot start.

One thing that may be working against the Wolves — or for them, depending on how it’s looked at — is the schedule. South ends the regular season by playing four of the league’s top five teams.

“I knew that right away,” Fairweather said. “And with this young club, I didn’t know if that wasn’t a bad thing, to let them get their feet under them before they got into the heat of things.

“I’m pleased with a lot of things,” Fairweather said. “I’d just like to see us play seven innings and finish. We haven’t really done that yet, that I’ve noticed.”

South Kitsap 11,

Gig Harbor 6

Played April 27 at South Kitsap

Tyler Rice, Troy Burki (3), Emmett (3) and Smith; Andrew Thatcher, Jason Read (6) and Aaron Smothers. W – Thatcher (4-0). L – Rice.

Leading hitters: GH – Cassidy Emery 1-2 (RBI), Brent Smoots 1-3 (RBI), Tyler Rice 1-4 (2SB). SK – Kyle Pease 2-3 (RBI), Dan Dillard 2-4 (2RBI,SB), Zach Jacob 2-3 (3B,2RBI), Jason Read 2-2 (SB), Andy Hultz 1-3 (2B,RBI,SB), Grant Sampson 0-1 (3R,SB).

Gig Harbor 5,

South Kitsap 4

Played April 26 at Gig Harbor

Matt Hudson and Aaron Smothers; Brandon Rode, Troy Burki (6), Jordan Harrison (7) and Tyler Rice. W - Rode (4-0). L - Hudson.

Leading hitters - SK: Kyle Pease 1-3 (HR,RBI), Zach Jacob 2-4 (2B). GH: Tyler Rice 2-4 (HR,RBI), David Benedict 2-4 (2R), Matt Pleau 1-2 (2RBI).

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