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CK wins Legion Division crown
Silverdale is set to give Spokane a taste of Kitsap Junior American Legion baseball.
With Central Kitsap topping Olympic 17-1 Wednesday in the second round of the Junior American Legion Division III Tournament, the Cougars ensured themselves a berth to the state tournament, which begins Wednesday in Spokane.
CK upped the ante Thursday with an 8-5 win against River Ridge in the title game, earning the division title.
It feels great, CK coach Bill Baxter said. It was great because we played a good game. Its a good building block when you get to state because these are the kinds of teams you play.
But they wont be the only ones making the drive through the mountains to the far reaches of the state.
Olympic battled back from the 5-inning drubbing, dropping Foss 8-2 before blanking North Thurston 4-0 for the third and final state berth, also Thursday. River Ridge also advanced.
Theyre pumped, Tigers coach Nate Andrews said. These kids are winners. They want to exceed expectations and go as far as possible. Im just really glad they worked hard enough and played well enough to get the opportunity.
In the title game, CKs Cameron Salley pitched four shutout innings as CK built a 5-0 lead. But the Hawks came back with 5 in the fifth, a combination an error, Salley leaving the ball up in the zone and reliever Kevin Norris walking back-to-back batters on eight pitches, both with the bases loaded. Baxter then brought in Allen Hewey to pitch.
That usually spells disaster, Baxter said of the comeback effort by River Ridge. But Allen came in and shut the door on em.
Hewey went the rest of the way for CK, allowing no more runs while CK put up three more, scoring in every inning but the first. But Hewey said the result would likely have been the same no matter who was throwing the ball.
Its a team effort, Hewey said. If I didnt do it, somebody else would have stepped up in there.
But having already locked up a state berth didnt hurt either.
I was really relaxed out there when I came in, Hewey said. Theres pressure out there, but states ahead of us now. Im looking forward to state.
Mike Crowley led the offensive charge for CK, batting 3-4 with an RBI. Josh Winkler was 2-3 with a double and an RBI, while Hewey, Tyler Baumgartner, Howard McDonald and Brett McDonald each had a hit and RBI for the Cougs.
It was nice to see, Baxter said. They got back on us but we kept the pressure on them. The kids, Im really proud of em. They just competed.
Olympic had to battle back to earn its berth.
CK put a beating on us, Andrews said. They did, they beat us up. To come back and turn it around the next day is big. They dont quit. They dont stay down. Its a huge compliment to them and their character and competitiveness.
In the early game, Oly built a big 5-0 lead before Foss got on the board in the fifth. It was too little, too late, however, as Foss two runs came on just two hits thanks to the pitching of Jordan Halstead.
With regular starters Elliot Thorsen and Riley Crow high in innings, and with Olys back against the wall facing elimination, Andrews decided to go with Halstead.
As far as the draw goes, we were in the tougher side. It was kind of a pressure situation, Andrews said. I thought, You know what? Jordan is good enough to beat a team in that situation. He helped the whole team.
Halstead worked the complete game, getting the offense behind him and strong defense throughout. Zach Bird, Bryan Deszell and Thorsen all finished with big RBIs for Oly.
With Halstead going the distance, the Tigers were able to throw Crow in the third-place, loser-out game against North Thurston.
Having Riley around was huge, Andrews said. He keeps guys off balance. He was strong. And he threw on a full day of rest.
Crow also went a complete game, shutting out the Rams. Chris Campbell and Thorsen both went 2-4 in the fame, and Halstead and Thorsen both drove runs in.
Crow said bouncing back from the CK loss was the biggest obstacle.
Its amazing. It took a lot of teamwork, he said of getting to state. It was big time. You can tell the guys came in and flushed (the game with CK) all away. We just had an amazing game, everyone.
Olys summer program, established in 2002, had only qualified for districts once previously, advancing to state for the first time.
It feels good, Thorsen said. Its the first time this team has been to state. Its awesome. We just want to keep the season going. Stay as long as we can.
For Central Kitsap, the trip to state vindicates the summer program, in its first year. Baxter said the advantages of the program have been many thus far.
When we come back next year, itll be great because the kids already know the system, he said. It makes a great transition. And its building a winning attitude too.
Andrews agreed, saying that getting the kids to buy in early is essential to translating summer success to next spring.
I know for a fact that school ball carries into next school year, Andrews said. When we get back in school ball, the kids get excited.
Thursdays championship game exposed some of the gaffs Baxter hopes the summer program will help correct. After all, Baxter said, while winning is nice, its not the primary function of the summer program.
We were making some basic mistakes, like in baserunning, hitting in situations, not knowing the strike zone, or not going to third base when the ball is hit in front of you; those type of things, Baxter said. Those are freshman and sophomore mistakes.
On top of that, it builds high school-equivalent experience as teams are constantly restocking to replace graduated seniors.
Going into next year, were really going to be young, Andrews said. But well go in with a lot of experience because of what weve done.
Building leaders for the teams future is something both Baxter and Andrews said is another benefit of the summer program.
Its also building leadership, Baxter said of sophomore summer players like Howard McDonald, Cole Adams and Crowley, among others. Some of the guys that were sophomores, we need them. The team has to have that.
Andrews agreed, talking about the strides Thorsen and Deszell have made.
We want to ride those guys. Elliot is a leader. He crushes the ball, hes a great hitter. Hes got confidence, Andrews said. Brian is a phenomenal quiet leader. He does everything we ask. He works hard. We try to train them to be leaders, to tae charge. Brian and Elliot have done that.
As a player with time under his belt at the high school level, Hewey said its also nice to break new young guys into the program.
I played with them for school ball, he said. Now we get the younger guys coming up, playing with us.
Making the transition to high school baseball was certainly eased in Thorsens opinion.
A lot, he said. It makes the shift so much easier from junior high. Its just extra baseball, which is always better.
And for new summer players like Crow, the experience is already paying off.
Ive learned so much, just him yelling at me, Crow joked of Andrews. Hes an amazing coach.
With two teams advancing, Andrews said it speaks volumes for baseball in central Kitsap County.
Its awesome for our community to see two teams go on, he said. That doesnt happen very often.
With both squads set to depart for Spokane (things get started Wednesday), Andrews said hes telling his kids to relish the experience. He added as a high school summer player, he remembered his teams trip to state.
That stuff you cant pay money for, he said.
Which is why he too is willing to cut a family vacation to Lake Cushman a little short, even if that might have other repercussions.
Im gonna have to cut my vacation short about five days, Andrews said. So Ill get a couple days and be out of there. Its OK though. My wife is very understanding.