Klahowya hardballers one win from state

(Left) KSS’ Brandon Neet waits for a pitch during the Eagles’ 8-2 win against Eatonville at Legion Field in Bremerton on Tuesday. (Above) Eric Eley, who went 5 2/3 innings, pitches. - Wesley Remmer/staff photos
(Left) KSS’ Brandon Neet waits for a pitch during the Eagles’ 8-2 win against Eatonville at Legion Field in Bremerton on Tuesday. (Above) Eric Eley, who went 5 2/3 innings, pitches.
— image credit: Wesley Remmer/staff photos

BREMERTON — Lively bats, lockdown pitching and a little revenge.

The Klahowya baseball team pieced together a complete game Tuesday with a crisp 8-2 win over Eatonville in the Class 2A West Central District III tournament at Legion Field in Bremerton.

Not only did the Eagles (13-6) play one of their best games to date, but they also avoided what would have been a disappointing early exit from the postseason and positioned themselves for yet another state tournament appearance.

The team would secure its fifth state berth in school history with a win today against Fife in the semifinals.

“I don’t want to play another loser-out game in districts,” coach Dave Neet said. “This is the kind of win we’ll need to beat Fife.”

Eric Eley struck out nine batters in 5 2/3 innings, allowing just one run — in the first inning — and KSS pushed runs across in four of the six innings it took the plate to give their right-handed ace ample run support.

Eatonville’s only lead was 1-0 in the top of the first.

“Just timely hitting that proved to be timely throughout the game,” Neet said. “It seemed like we were always threatening on the base paths. That was key for us, to get the hitting and to keep the hitting going.”

Catcher Seth Green was 2-for-2 with an RBI, Steffen Jeffcoat was 2-for-2 with a run and Darell Newman was 2-for-3 with a run. The trio combined for six of KSS’ eight hits.

“It definitely boosts our confidence because we just came off two tough losses and we were kind of in a slump as a team,” Green said. “Tonight everyone came through when they needed to and we ended up winning big.”

Eatonville, meanwhile, managed three hits total and just one against Eley, who left the game in the sixth after throwing about 100 pitches.

Neet said he turned to Eley, in part, to give his senior an opportunity to beat the Cruisers, who edged Klahowya in the 2007 district tournament with Eley on the mound.

“He pitched great then, but we lost the game,” Neet said. “I think deep down Eric wanted this one back because it was a close game, he was a young kid and we played an Eatonville team full of seniors, one of the better teams we’ve seen.”

Eley said he didn’t settle in until the third inning because it took him a few pitches to get acclimated with the mound at Legion Field. From the third on, however, he was nearly untouchable.

“I made the pitches when I had to and got the outs,” he said.

With the win, KSS now has two chances to lock in a state tournament berth. A win today against Fife would send the Eagles to the district championship game tomorrow against the winner of today’s Sequim/Kingston game. It also would guarantee them no worse than a No. 2 seed to state.

A loss, however, would put KSS in a loser-out, winner-to-state game against the loser of the Sequim/Kingston contest. That game also would be played tomorrow.

“It’s a must-win in our minds,” Eley said of the Fife game. “This next game is huge ... I think if we play like we did today, we can beat them.”

Neet said Kurtis Pitcher will get the start today. Pitcher, a lefty, gives the Eagles a solid alternate to Eley and could be a No. 1 pitcher on many teams.

The Eagles’ strength has been — and continues to be — pitching.

“I feel pretty lucky to have someone of Kurtis’ caliber coming in to pitch against Fife,” Neet said. “Most coaches would have had to pitch Kurtis tonight.”

Pitcher, who is headed to Western Oregon to play baseball next year, struck out 15 batters in a game against Port Angeles earlier this month. He plays first base when he’s not on the mound.

“Hopefully he’ll give us a good game Friday,” Neet said.

Fife, which had a first-round bye, entered districts as the Nisqually League No. 1 seed. Today’s game is at 4 p.m. at Legion Field.

The championship game is at 7 p.m. tomorrow, while the consolation game for the third and final spot to state — between today’s losers — is at 4 p.m. tomorrow.

In the first game Tuesday, Sequim advanced thanks to a 1-0 win against Washington, which managed only one hit and committed four errors.

The Wolves’ lone run came in the top of the fifth.

Klahowya 8, Eatonville 2

Eatonville 100 000 1—2 3 3

Klahowya 320 210 x—8 8 2

Edwards, Horiskey (3), Wolfringer (4), Stivens (6) and Staggs; Eric Eley, Darell Newman (6) and Seth Green. W—Eley (5-3). L—Edwards.

Leading hitters—Eat: Evans 2-4 (2SB,R). Kla: Seth Green 2-2, Brian McGuire 0-0 (BB,R), Darell Newman 2-3 (R), Steffen Jeffcoat 2-2 (SB,R).

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