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Baseball: Central Kitsap earns come-from-behind win against Wolves
It is one of the most difficult tasks in baseball.
For seven innings, and more than two hours on Saturday afternoon, Central Kitsap junior Brandon Bynum’s only activity was serving as a courtesy runner.
And then coach Bill Baxter called on him with runners on first and third base and one out with the game tied.
Bynum immediately rewarded his coach’s confidence by hitting reliever Riley Voshell’s first pitch into deep right field to score Josh Sontag and give the Cougars a 7-6 win Saturday in the Narrows League playoffs at Heidelberg Park.
“Frustrating,” South coach Jim Fairweather said. “We had them and didn’t put them away.”
Central (15-7) earns the No. 3 seed out of the Narrows League and plays South Puget Sound League South Division champion Puyallup (18-3) at 11 a.m. Saturday at Kent Memorial.
“It’s huge,” said Baxter, adding that his team now will get a second opportunity at districts if it loses against Auburn to advance to the Class 4A state tournament for a fourth consecutive year.
The Wolves (13-9) claim the league’s fourth spot at districts and play at 2 p.m. Saturday against Emerald Ridge (15-8), which defeated South 8-4 earlier this season, at Kent Memorial. They must win that game and defeat the loser of the Auburn vs. Central game later that day to advance to state for a third straight season.
“We’re playing a team that’s already beat us once and I know they’re chomping at the bit to get to you again because they think they can beat you,” Fairweather told his team after the game. “I’m telling you right now you’re better than they are and you can beat them if you don’t beat yourself.”
As usual, it all came down to the end for both teams. South won the previous meeting, 5-4, on April 23, and three of the last four meetings between the schools have been decided by a pair of runs or less.
“We’ve played some great games with them over the years,” Baxter said. “It’s been a good battle for us.”
It played out that way again in the seventh. Brett McDonald flew out to center field to begin the inning before Sontag singled to right field. Sontag then ran toward second base on what appeared to be a hit-and-run, and Cameron Crook singled to right-center field to move Sontag to third base.
“It actually was a straight steal,” Baxter said. “We felt the guy had a pretty slow move to the plate and we needed to get the guy to second. We’ve got to put pressure on them.”
Bynum then stepped up as a pinch-hitter.
“I like pressure,” Bynum said. “When coach told me to go up and hit, I was ready for it.”
“Brandon’s an absolutely competitive kid,” he said. “I had all the confidence that he was going to get something for us.”
South tied the game in the top of the seventh. Mitch Cartwright led off the inning with a single off sophomore reliever Nathan Reece. Ricky Johnson followed with a bunt single, and Cartwright advanced to third base on a throwing error by the second baseman on the play. Cartwright then scored on a fielder’s choice by Zach Reyes.
It was one of several scoring opportunities that came via poor fielding. It began with the first batter of the game, Wolves second baseman Tanner Romo, who doubled when the center fielder could not find the ball in the sun. Shortstop Vince Sablan then reached on an error before pitcher Gordy Anderson hit an RBI single. Catcher Michael Nelson followed with a single to reload the bases, and Nelson scored on a sacrifice fly by Mitch Cartwright.
South then took advantage of the sun again as Johnson duplicated Romo’s at-bat. The double resulted in Nelson scoring to give the Wolves a 3-0 lead.
They extended their lead to 4-0 in the third inning a sacrifice fly by Johnson scored Nelson. But after Anderson limited the Cougars to just one hit in the first two innings, they tied the game in the bottom half of the inning.
Kyle Lanoue walked and Brian Gustafson singled to begin the inning. Both scored on a single by Josh Kriefels to cut Central’s deficit to 4-2. Anderson then was able to get Johnathon Fergus to pop-up and strike out Drew Vettleson. But Tyler Baumgartner hit an RBI single and Sontag followed with another after a McDonald walk to tie the game.
South regained the lead in the fourth inning. With two outs, Sablan grounded out against Sontag, but D’Aundray Van Slyke scored on the play to give the Wolves a 5-4 edge.
The Cougars did not lead until the sixth inning. Anderson hit Crook with a pitch to start the inning. After Lanoue struck out, Gustafson and Kriefels singled to load the bases. Fergus then hit into a fielder’s choice to score Gustafson and tie the game. But Kriefels also scored on the play on a throwing error by the shortstop to give Central a 6-5 edge.
The Wolves and Cougars combined for nine errors, not counting the two sun-related issues Central had in the first inning. Fairweather said that was a focal point during his team meeting after the game.
“It’s easier than you guys want to make it,” he said. “We catch grounders all day long (at practice). We throw fly balls — and we throw them at home plate. We hit balls all the time.
"Nothing’s different except the situation, and you’ve got to prepare yourself when you do your rep work.”
Narrows League Tournament at Heidelberg Park
Central Kitsap 7, South Kitsap 6
South Kitsap 301 100 1 — 6 10 5
Central Kitsap 004 002 1 — 7 9 4
Gordy Anderson, Riley Voshell (6) and Michael Nelson. Josh Sontag, Nathan Reece (5) and Brian Gustafson.
W: Reece. L: Anderson.
Leading hitters: Mitch Cartwright (SK) 2-4 2B RBI; Ricky Johnson (SK) 2-3 2B 2 RBI; Easton Sartor (SK) 2-3 2B; Brian Gustafson (CK) 2-2; Josh Kriefels (CK) 2-4 2 RBI; Sontag (CK) 2-4 RBI.
South Kitsap 7, Bellarmine Prep 3
Bellarmine Prep 000 120 0 — 3 5 2
South Kitsap 002 005 x — 7 10 1
Kohle McLeod, Ryan Hayes (6) and Ben King. Ricky Johnson, Riley Voshell (6) and Michael Nelson.
W: Voshell. L: McLeod.
Leading hitters: Vince Sablan (SK) 2-4 RBI; Easton Sartor (SK) 2-3.