BASEBALL | Pitching propels Wolves to state semifinals

South Kitsap senior Nic Stoner and his teammates advanced to the Class 4A state tournament for the second time in three seasons after defeating Jackson and Woodinville during Saturday’s regional tournament at Kent Memorial. - Jeff Rhodes Photo
South Kitsap senior Nic Stoner and his teammates advanced to the Class 4A state tournament for the second time in three seasons after defeating Jackson and Woodinville during Saturday’s regional tournament at Kent Memorial.
— image credit: Jeff Rhodes Photo

KENT — In the hours leading up to the game, South Kitsap senior Michael Wood watched as Woodinville batters seemingly hit every Emerald Ridge pitch hard.

Some might have been intimidated. Wood just focused.

The concentration on details — being aggressive and keeping the ball down — resulted in a complete game six-hitter as the Wolves defeated the Falcons 4-1 during Saturday’s regional championship at Kent Memorial. South (20-5) advances to play at 4 p.m. Friday against Kentwood at GESA Stadium in Pasco.

The Wolves wasted little time giving Wood an early lead. With one out in the first inning, Cody Wolfe and Tyler Pinkerton hit consecutive singles before right-handed starter Caleb Hamilton loaded the bases when he hit Tyler Ludlow with a pitch. Tanner Paulson, who went 2 for 3 with 3 RBI, then hit a two-RBI double down the left-field line.

“After the first game, his head was down and I said, ‘Hey, we trust you,’ ” South coach Marcus Logue said. “We’ve done that the whole season. He didn’t have his first strikeout until a couple of weeks ago. Sometimes it’s not pretty. The guys give him a hard time and call him ‘Dinker.’ But then he wrists that double down the line and that’s huge for us to get things rolling.”

Woodinville (16-8), which needed just five innings to defeat the Jaguars 14-0 in its early game, reduced its deficit to 2-1 in the second inning when Wolfe misplayed a single by Tommy Wick in left field, which allowed Drew Accimus to score.

But South responded with runs in each of the next two innings. After Wolfe led off the third inning with a single, he scored with two outs when Paulson reached with a hit to shallow center field. Wolfe, who finished 3 for 4 and scored a pair of runs, also produced a one-out RBI in the fourth inning when his single to left field scored Alek Morrison.

“We had them on their heels,” Logue said. “We hit the ball well.”

That was more than enough for Wood, who used his fastball and curve ball to throw 58 of 85 pitches for strikes.

“He attacked the zone and threw lots of strikes,” said Woodinville coach Terry Agnew, who frequently competed against the Wolves when he guided Central Kitsap until 1990. “He did a great job. It’s not that our guys played bad — we just couldn’t get anything going.”

Wood watched teammate Josh Johnston shutout Jackson 3-0 during the morning game and stuck around to watch the Falcons play their first game.

“I noticed the other pitchers were kind of leaving it up,” Wood said. “That was my entire goal that last game was not to put anything [high].”

Wood noted that he did that once and second baseman Trevor Cook hit a double off the left-field wall. It was the only extra-base hit Wood surrendered.

“I felt great,” Wood said. “I knew from the [warm up] that it was going to be a pretty good day.”

While Logue said “everyone” at Kent Memorial expected the Falcons to continue hitting well in the regional championship, Agnew noted that his team’s 14 runs against Emerald Ridge were the most they scored this season.

“That’s not what we normally do,” he said. “That’s very atypical of us.”

Meanwhile, strong pitching has become a staple for South even though its most decorated starter, left-hander Kellen Traxel, who signed with the University of Washington, has not pitched since March 25 at Olympia when he injured his triceps muscle in his pitching arm. Instead, the Wolves have relied on Johnston and Wood as they have won 10 of their last 11 games and reached 20 wins for the first time since their 2003 state championship season.

Now South has advanced to state for the 26th time in program history, where they will have to defeat the defending state champion Conquerors (21-5) to earn the school’s fourth state baseball championship since 1983. If the Wolves accomplish that, they will advance to the title game at 7 p.m. Saturday against Kentridge or Skyview.

Logue, a first-year coach who started at catcher when Port Townsend won the 2A state title in 2004, said he recently talked with his team about some of the setbacks he suffered as a senior and how they matured from those experiences. He believes South has done the same.

“They know where they’re at, how important this is and what it means to them,” Logue said. “They’ve worked so hard this season.”

South Kitsap 4, Woodinville 1

South Kitsap    201      100      0          -           4          9          1

Woodinville     010      000      0          -           1          6          0

Michael Wood and Tyler Pinkerton. Caleb Hamilton, Eric Anthony (4) and Lee Wunderlich.

W-Wood. L-Hamilton.

Leading hitters-Cody Wolfe (SK) 3-4 RBI 2 runs, Tanner Paulson (SK) 2-3 2B 3 RBI, Trevor Cook (W) 1-3 2B.

South Kitsap 3, Jackson 0

Jackson            000      000      0          -           0          5          1

South Kitsap    102      000      x          -           3          5          0

Alec Kisena and Alex Kiel. Josh Johnston and Tyler Pinkerton.

W-Johnston. L-Kisena.

Leading hitters-Joakim Soderqvist (J) 2-3 2B, Jesse Moore (SK) 2-3 2 RBI, Tyler Pinkerton (SK) 1-2 HBP run.

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