Narrows League Champs!

The Central Kitsap baseball team rallies around home plate during the Cougs’ 10-0 win over Olympia Saturday in the Narrows League Championship game, earning CK the No. 1 seed at the West Central District tournament. - Photo by Aaron Managhan
The Central Kitsap baseball team rallies around home plate during the Cougs’ 10-0 win over Olympia Saturday in the Narrows League Championship game, earning CK the No. 1 seed at the West Central District tournament.
— image credit: Photo by Aaron Managhan

TACOMA — All season long, the Central Kitsap baseball team wondered why it wasn’t getting more respect.

Not that it really mattered.

“We like being the underdogs,” CK shortstop Daniel Zylstra said. “That was one of the things coach (Bill Baxter) talked to us about earlier. It’s fun.”

It was with that mentality that the No. 4 Cougars marched into Tacoma’s Heidelberg Park on Saturday, dominating the then-No. 2 Olympia Bears for a 10-0 win in six innings.

Not only did the win hand the Cougs (18-3) the No. 1-seed into the West Central District Tournament, but it also gave CK the Narrows League title the team knew it could win all along.

“It’s really good. I’m not sure,” Zylstra said. “You can’t even really say it. I just can’t stop smiling.”

Zylstra wasn’t alone.

“It’s an honor,” CK outfielder Bobby Kelner said of being crowned NL champs. “It’s great to be on this team and play with them this year. We have a great group of guys. That was a blessing all on its own.”

CK won its first Narrows crown ever and first league title in more than a decade in convincing fashion, breaking out the bats for timely rallies and getting stellar pitching from lefty David Stilley, who simply overmatched Olympia (17-3) for a two-hitter.

“It feels really good,” Baxter said. “The kids came out and played their hearts out (Saturday). We just pounded the ball. And Stilley had an awesome game.”

Everything came together for CK, as the Cougars first four runs came with two outs in the bottom of the third inning.

With one out, catcher Daniel Beckon ripped a double into left field (Zac Brown came on to pinch run). After Glen Hewey hit into a fielder’s choice that moved Brown to third, Zylstra slapped an RBI single into center field, scoring Brown. After a passed ball sent Zylstra to second, Tyler Owens launched an RBI double into left field. Aaron Johnson kept it going with a single into right field, scoring Owens. Nate Wallen then singled and Kelner was hit by a pitch to load the bases. That allowed Brad Durham to hit one more RBI single before the inning ending.

The Cougars simply rolled from there.

“We just came out with that mentality,” Kelner said. “We were going to win. We put our money where our mouth was.”

Olympia scattered just two hits off of Stilley, although he did walk four batters before shaking off some early nerves. All in all, Stilley recorded seven strikeouts in the two-hitter.

“It’s great. I liked how we handled ourselves today,” Stilley said. “They had some good pitchers today. We just executed.”

While the Cougars, who celebrate by mobbing Caleb Brown at home plate after he scored the 10th run, will enjoy the title in the near future, CK knows plenty of road lies ahead.

“We’re gonna try to stay on the ground,” Stilley said. “We’ll just keep going hard and stay confident. Just not too confident.”

Keeping from being overconfident shouldn’t be a problem, Baxter said.

“(The win) gives us lots of confidence,” Baxter said. “And we’ll need it. There’s no rest for the weary. Our guys won’t be overconfident. They know that if we don’t come out and play well against these teams, they’ll beat us.

“We have a long way to go.”

Kelner said the biggest thing that will keep CK level-headed will be just sticking to routine.

“We’ll just play our game,” he said. “That’s all we can do. We’ll come out here and work the same as we do every day. We’ll put on our jerseys the same as we do every day.”

After all, its that work ethic that got CK here to begin with.

“We’ll enjoy it (this weekend), but (Monday), it’s work and work hard,” Zylstra said. “It doesn’t matter what they do. We just have to work hard.”

Central Kitsap will battle Tahoma at 11 a.m. Saturday at Heidelberg Park in the first round of the WCD tourney.

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