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NK Vikings freeze Klahowya baseball
Buried under layers of wool, one grumbling spectator called Klahowya’s baseball field “The Frozen Tundra,” borrowing Wisconsin lingo to describe what felt like freezing temps during Tuesday’s game between the Eagles and visitor North Kitsap .
But as teeth chattered and the wind swished, North’s Andy Smith scattered five hits and a run over six innings to stay hot. The senior co-captain also drove in two runs, helping his own cause as the Vikings tromped away with a chilly 6-1 victory to break a two-game losing streak.
“He’s done a great job,” said North coach Jeff Weible of Smith, whose other appearances this season were in relief. “This was kind of a must-win for us today ... We asked him to go get a job done and he did it, so I’m real happy for him.”
The Vikings played error-free defense, something that’s becoming a team trademark, and managed just enough offense against the Eagles top two pitchers, Eric Eley and Curtis Pitcher.
Nic Benish’s two-run single to left field with two outs, the bases loaded and the score 1-0 gave the Vikings a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning. A passed ball during the ensuing at-bat allowed Smith to score, making it 4-0.
The four-run cushion was more than enough for Smith, who was 1-for-3 at the plate, scoring two runs.
“Pretty much all my pitches were working for me,” he said. “I felt pretty good from the get-go. Once I warmed up and got going, it was good.”
Added KSS coach Dave Neet, “I was very, very impressed with how he pitched. He kept our guys off balance, he had a fastball, he seemed like he was ahead in the count a lot and it just seemed like we were battling up there.”
With five hits on the day, it would appear as though Klahowya had trouble making contact against Smith. That, however, wasn’t the case as North simply put a glove on every ball put in play.
“We were able to put the bat on the ball a few times, but their defense really backed the pitcher up,” Neet said. “That shows another dynamic of a good team, when you’re able to back your pitcher up like that, makes pitchers pitch with confidence.”
But Need said he was happy with his team’s performance despite the loss. Unlike the Eagles’ opening game against Olympic, which they lost in ugly fashion, 10-0, Neet said they played crisp ball Tuesday.
“A loss is a loss, I’m not going to sugarcoat that. But I liked the way we played today,” Neet said. “Our mental mistakes are down, our errors are down, our hits are up, our pitching is right on. Most of the time when you have all that going for you, you’re going to win a game.”
Neet said he saved Eley and Pitcher for the North game, knowing the caliber of the Viking team and that the weather forecast called for cold temperatures.
“Those are our two top guys, our success really lies on those two pitchers,” he said. “Knowing the elements were going to be a big part of this game, we would like to go into this game with the two pitchers we had.”
The Eley-Pitcher combination gives the Eagles a dynamic one-two punch in that Eley, a right-hander, is a power pitcher and Pitcher, a lefty, relies on location. Both allowed runs Tuesday — Eley four runs in three innings and Pitcher two runs in three innings — but Neet said their performances were better than sub-par.
“They both were effective, there’s nothing I would have changed in anything that we did today, pitching wise,” Neet said. “I’m very happy with the performances of both those guys, they did a wonderful job.”
With the loss, Klahowya drops to .500 at 2-2 overall, which also is their league record. They’ve beaten Bremerton and Sequim, but lost to North and Olympic.
“The same teams that I thought were going to be tough are tough,” Neet said, referring to Olympic League teams North, Olympic and Kingston, which the Eagles face at home Thursday. “We’re pretty happy with the way we’re playing as far as how we started the season, which was so poorly against Olympic, and then where we are right now.”
While the best KSS do against both North and Oly on the season is to draw a 1-1 split, that’s exactly what Neet wants to see his team do. With that mentality, Neet explained, the Eagles can beat anybody in the Olympic League.
“We’ve got to bring a better game than what we did, that’s the only way we’re going to beat North Kitsap, they’re solid,” Neet said. “We feel after today that we can play with these guys. Today was their day.”
KSS is at Port Angeles Tuesday. Game time is 4 p.m.
The Trojans (5-2) rebounded from a 9-8 upset loss against Port Angeles March 27 to beat North 9-1 Monday.
With two runs in the first inning and five more in the second, Oly buried the Vikings early.
Blake Johnson was 2-for-3 with an RBI, Jordan Halstead was 2-for-2 with a homer and two RBI and Riley Crow was 1-for-3 with an RBI to lead the Trojans. Crow picked up the win on the mound.
Oly visits Kingston at 4 p.m. Tuesday and hosts Capital at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
The Cougars (4-2) scored 30 runs in two games this week, but managed to win just one of the games. CK lost in a slugfest Monday against Eastmont, 17-16, before rebounding to beat Wenatchee 14-7 Tuesday.
CK faces Bellarmine Prep twice in the days, hosting the Lions at 4 p.m. Monday before visiting at 4 p.m. Wednesday.