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Rejuvenated Wolves claim state berth
Perhaps more lunchtime pep talks are South Kitsap baseball team's recipe for success.
For a second consecutive year, Wolves coach Jim Fairweather talked with his team after losing the morning game of the West Central District Tournament.
The result, once again, is a trip to the state tournament as South beat Jefferson 10-2 Saturday at Puyallup's Heritage Park.
After losing 1-0 in the first game against Puyallup when right-hander Adam Cimber, a University of Washington signing who allowed just one hit, the Wolves went to lunch at the nearby South Hill Mall.
Fairweather, whose team plays Issaquah at an undetermined time Saturday at Tacoma's Heidelberg Park in a loser-out game, said he talked with both Collin Monagle and Brady Steiger on Wednesday about the need for "our big guys to step up."
On Saturday, he stressed the importance of a disciplined plate approach with the team.
The response was almost instant. After Josh Fort walked and Charlie Hough hit a fly out, Steiger took a 3-2 pitch from starter Kama Frank and drove it over the right-field wall. The ball traveled far enough that it cleared the fence of the house next to the park before coming to rest in its backyard.
South added another run to build a 3-0 lead in the first inning when Brad Fairweather hit a two-out single to center field and scored Ricky Johnson. It was all the production that Monagle needed in his first start.
"I was nervous," Monagle said. "Brady's home run was a big ease off my shoulders. It was easier to do my job."
The right hander, who signed with UW, had offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder. He allowed just one run — a fifth-inning home run by Brett Fitzgerald, and threw 68 pitches. Monagle, who pitched five innings, said his target was 60-70 pitches.
"I'm just tired," said Monagle, who made his fourth appearance of the season. "But there's no pain at all."
After the first inning, Frank held the Wolves scoreless until the fifth. Steiger popped out to third base before Monagle reached on an error by the third baseman and Johnson walked. Scott McGallian then doubled to left-center field to score Monagle and end Frank's outing.
But South wasn't finished.
Brad Fairweather walked off reliever Erik Davis to load the bases. Third baseman Mitch Cartwright followed with a two-RBI double to left field. After Caleb Macabitas flew out and Fort was hit by a pitch to reload the bases, Fairweather inserted Swey Dean. The pinch-hitter hit a two-RBI double to right-center and the Raiders made their second pitching change of the inning.
Steiger, who signed with Washington State, hit an RBI down the right-field line to cap the seven-run inning, and finished a triple away from the cycle. He was 3 for 4 with three RBI and a walk.
"It was nice to get back out there and do something for the team," Steiger said. "I didn't hit too well the last couple of games."
The left-handed McGallian allowed an unearned run in two innings to close out the game.
Fairweather was critical of himself and his team after a 12-0 loss May 9 against Olympia in the Narrows League championship game. But the Wolves committed just one error in two games Saturday, and there were two diving catches in the outfield that prevented hits against the Raiders.
"The Olympia game didn't go well and it gave us a lot of motivation," Steiger said. "We wanted to come out and play better and we did."
"I saw signs of life that I hadn't seen for a while," he said. "We can play on some very positive stuff."
West Central District Tournament
At Heritage Park (Puyallup)
South Kitsap 10, Jefferson 2
South Kitsap 300 070 0 — 10 10 1
Jefferson 000 011 0 — 2 5 1
Collin Monagle, Scott McGallian (6) and Gordy Anderson. Kama Frank, Erik Davis (5), Austin Campbell (5), Brett Fitzgerald (7) and Mitch McQueen and Campbell (7).
Leading hitters: Brady Steiger (SK) 3-4 BB 2B HR 3 RBI; Mitch Cartwright (SK) 1-3 BB 2B 2 RBI; Swey Dean (SK) 1-1 2B 2 RBI; Brett Fitzgerald (J) 1-2 HR RBI.