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Will Central Kitsap’s big bats be enough?
After delivering two consecutive victories in loser-out situations last weekend at districts, the Central Kitsap baseball team is back in the state tournament.
The Cougars (16-5), making their third state appearance in as many years, rebounded from a frustrating nine-inning, 4-3 loss to Gig Harbor in the Narrows League Tournament May 11 to defeat Curtis, 8-6, and Gig Harbor, 13-0, as a No. 4 seed at the Class 4A West Central District III tournament.
“We had to kind of pull it out of the fire,” coach Bill Baxter said Wednesday of converting the two must-wins, both of which came Saturday at Kent Memorial Park, where CK will open state at 2 p.m. tomorrow against Lake Washington.
Against Curtis, CK faced deficits of 3-0 and 6-2 before storming back to score six runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Later that day, the Cougars avenged the May 11 loss to Gig with an emphatic 13-0 victory, highlighted by a Drew Vettleson grand slam and Casey Bohlmann’s two-hit shutout, against the Tide.
“Once we won that first game, we had the momentum,” Baxter said. “We were confident we could beat Gig Harbor.”
Now, the Cougars will put districts in the rearview mirror and look to Lake Washington (18-5), the Class 4A KingCo Crown Division regular-season champion and a team Baxter called “very solid.”
The Kangs, who lost 5-3 to Jackson in their most recent state appearance (2006), possess two quality arms in seniors Blake Lively and Christian Kasier. Kaiser, however, is the team’s top arm with a team-high five wins to go with a 2.58 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings.
“We are going to have to play the game of our lives to beat them,” Baxter said. “We’re going to have to come out and play well.”
Baxter said Kaiser consistently throws his fastball for strikes, meaning the Cougars should have a chance to put the bat on the ball and generate runs. To do that, Baxter added, CK’s hitters must stay disciplined.
“We need to take advantage of that,” Baxter said, referring to Kaiser’s ability to throw strikes. “I think if we stay smart, we’ll be OK.”
Baxter said he’s leaning toward Drew Vettleson to start, saying Vettleson “has a lot of pop.” Vettleson’s biggest challenge will be to slow down the Kangs on the base paths, particularly senior Chris Viltz, who is hitting .403 with 27 hits, 23 RBI, 10 doubles, two home runs and a team-high 10 stolen bases.
“From what I understand, they are very opportunistic and run a lot,” Baxter said.
A win would put the Cougars in the state quarterfinals for the second consecutive year. Last year, they beat Mountlake Terrace 11-5 in the first round before losing 9-2 against Snohomish in the quarters.
“The guys are confident, but they are not overconfident,” Baxter said. “We definitely believe we can compete. I’m excited, the kids are excited.”