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Nearly ‘Pitcher’-perfect: KSS senior fans 15
Kurtis Pitcher won’t soon forget the past five days.
On Sunday, the Klahowya senior signed a letter of intent to play baseball next season at Western Oregon University, extending his hardball career at least four more seasons. Three days later, with his team in the middle of a tight race for the Olympic League title, Pitcher threw a one-hit shutout, striking out 15 batters in seven innings to help the Eagles past Port Angeles 1-0 in Klahowya’s regular-season home finale at The Swamp.
Port Angeles’ lone hit came in the top of the first inning when its leadoff hitter got aboard.
“I was mixing up my arm angles. I was throwing more over the top and it helped me throw a lot harder today,” Pitcher said. “My curveball was breaking really well and I was just throwing a lot of strikes and they couldn’t hit me.”
Pitcher’s dominant performance came at the perfect time; Kingston lost Wednesday to Olympic, 8-3, meaning Klahowya holds sole possession of first place in the race for the Class 2A Olympic League championship in the combined 3A/2A Olympic League.
The Eagles (12-4 overall, 11-3 league) can lock up the league’s top Class 2A spot for the third consecutive season with a win today at Kingston (11-6, 10-5). North Kitsap (12-4, 11-3) and Olympic (12-5, 11-3) are battling for the Class 3A title.
“It is unprecedented for a smaller-classification school to ever win a league over larger-classification schools,” KSS coach Dave Neet said.
With the win Wednesday, Klahowya also secured its best season in terms of league victories (11) in the school’s history.
“I was pumped up because this was the last time I was going to play on this field,” Pitcher said. “We’re in the hunt for the league title and I want it so badly because I’m tired of seeing the other guys on top. I want to come out here and help us get that league title.”
Not only is the Class 2A league title within reach, but Klahowya could still win the outright league championship as well. That scenario is relatively unlikely because it would take two wins — the team ends the season at North Mason May 7 — plus one NK loss and one Olympic loss. Both NK and Olympic close the season with games against North Mason (4-13, 4-9) and struggling Bremerton (1-15, 1-13).
But KSS would earn a share of the overall title no matter what if it wins its last two games.
“At the beginning of the season, coach told us our main goal was to win state,” Pitcher said, “and we’ve been hungry ever sense.”
The Eagles also are beginning to eat up the state baseball rankings, landing a No. 10 ranking in this week’s Top 10, its highest ranking in school history.
“What’s helping us (in the rankings) is we’re beating 3A teams,” Neet said.
It appears as though the Eagles are set to avenge what Pitcher called a “meltdown” in the playoffs last year, when KSS failed to reach the state tournament after losing twice at districts, to Fife and Kingston.
“I think this is the most fun team I’ve ever been on, the team is just enjoying it while it lasts,” Pitcher said. “Like the Mariners always say, ‘There’s a new hero everyday.’ It seems like there’s always somebody stepping up each day.”
Pitcher quite obviously was Wednesday’s hero.
“It’s really nice to get on one of those streaks because you have all the confidence when you go out there,” Pitcher said of the team’s recent success. “The team just comes together.”
Pitcher’s signing with Western Oregon, the eight-time defending Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) champion, was finalized Tuesday when his parents mailed the signed letter to the school. He is on an academic scholarship, but Western Oregon coach Jeremiah Robbins promised him playing time his freshman year.
Pitcher will, well, pitch for the Division II Wolves, which held a 30-11 record through Wednesday.
“I’m excited that I get to play four more years of baseball,” said Pitcher, who visited the campus with his parents, then participated in a minicamp and impressed Robbins.
“He seems like a really nice guy,” Pitcher said of Robbins, a two-time GNAC Coach of the Year. “I’m excited to pitch for him.”
The Klahowya-Kingston game begins at 4 p.m. today at Kingston.