BASEBALL | Third time not South Kitsap’s championship charm

South Kitsap junior Mac McCarty and his teammates finished as the Class 4A state runner-up for a second consecutive season after the Wolves suffered a 7-1 loss Saturday against Puyallup at Gesa Stadium in Pasco. - Jeff Rhodes Photo
South Kitsap junior Mac McCarty and his teammates finished as the Class 4A state runner-up for a second consecutive season after the Wolves suffered a 7-1 loss Saturday against Puyallup at Gesa Stadium in Pasco.
— image credit: Jeff Rhodes Photo

PASCO — There is an old adage in sports that it is difficult to defeat a team three times.

But South Kitsap’s baseball team did little to reinforce that notion during their 7-1 loss in the Class 4A state championship game Saturday against Puyallup at Gesa Stadium.

The Wolves, who lost against Puyallup early in the season and twice during the playoffs, finished with a 22-6 record. The Vikings (28-0) became the first 4A team to finish undefeated since Jackson in 2006.

“We came in prepared and felt like we had a pretty good plan,” South coach Marcus Logue said. “There’s a reason why they’re undefeated. They’re very fundamental. We just kind of said all season — every time that we prepared to play them - that they kind of grind you out. You’re just going to have to hang on, hang on, hang on.”

South senior Logan Knowles shared similar sentiments.

“It’s unheard of to never have an off day,” he said. “They’ve had some close ones, but they’ve always found a way to fight through and that’s the mark of a great team.”

A familiar problem made that difficult to accomplish, though. During the Wolves’ 8-5 loss in last year’s state championship against Skyview, they committed nine errors. Against Puyallup, they committed three miscues. Logue disagreed with the error assessed to the center fielder Knowles — it latter was changed to a single by Brendan Illies — during the first inning, but not the others.

“The other ones are plays that you have to make against a team like that for sure,” he said.

Logue had an explanation for the issue, though.

“Nerves,” he said. “It’s a state championship.”

Puyallup took advantage from the start as a two-out single during the first inning by Darian Clemens scored Illies.

Consecutive one-out errors in the second inning enabled the Vikings to load the bases when Luke Heimlich drew a walk. Qwen Breithaupt then singled off right-handed starter Mac McCarty to score Adam Stump. Heimlich was thrown out at third base on the play to end the inning.

When asked whether that proves a team needs to play almost a perfect game to beat Puyallup, Logue agreed.

“You kind of do,” he said. “Especially defensively. You’ve got to do everything to the best of your ability defensively to stop them because they’re going to put hits together.”

That happened in the third as the Vikings put together an inning that helped them clinch their first state title in program history. Levi Jordan led off with a single and then Quinn Rawson followed with a one-out walk before Clemens was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Tyler McDowell then hit a two-RBI single. Zach Needham and Stump followed with run-scoring singles to increase Puyallup’s lead to 6-0 and chase McCarty from the contest. The Vikings added one more run when Heimlich hit a sacrifice fly off Knowles.

South’s lone run against right-handed starter Lane Griffin came during the sixth inning when Knowles hit a leadoff double and then scored when McCarty singled to center field. Logue said he felt his team had an advantage against Griffin because he also started the two previous games the teams played. That translated into five hits during six innings, but Logue felt that statistic was deceptive.

“I felt like we hit the ball,” he said. “We hit it hard in certain situations, but it was going right to them. They were making plays.”

While Logue and Knowles expressed disappointment that the Wolves could not capture their first state championship since 2003, they were pleased with how the season transpired.

“It’s been my most enjoyable season of baseball,” said Knowles, who intends to play baseball next year at the Naval Academy. “I can’t even describe how much fun I’ve had this year through the relationships I’ve made.”

Knowles was among eight seniors on South’s roster.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” Logue said. “This whole season the seniors have been phenomenal as far as leadership. They showed the younger guys the work ethic — everything it takes — to get back here.”

Even with those losses, Logue said he is confident the program can continue to build off the success established during the last two seasons.

“You use it and go back to the drawing board,” he said. “The guys that were here got an incredible experience. They understand what it takes. We can be here. It doesn’t really matter how big or fast you are necessarily.”

Puyallup 7, South Kitsap 1

South Kitsap 000 001 0 - 1 5 3

Puyallup 150 000 x - 7 7 0

Mac McCarty, Logan Knowles (3) and Tyler Pinkerton. Lane Griffin, Jacob Hegland (7) and Brendan Illies.

W-Griffin. L-McCarty.

Leading hitters-Tanner Paulson (SK) 2-3, Adam Stump (P) 2-3 run RBI.

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