Arms race: KSS’ hopes rest on Eley, Pitcher

(Left) KSS senior Eric Eley throws a pitch in the Class 2A West Central District III tournament against Eatonville May 12.  - Wesley Remmer/staff photos
(Left) KSS senior Eric Eley throws a pitch in the Class 2A West Central District III tournament against Eatonville May 12.
— image credit: Wesley Remmer/staff photos

To put it simply, the Klahowya baseball team is on a roll.

Buoyed by stable starting pitching, the Eagles recently captured the Class 2A West Central District III championship with three consecutive victories, including a 5-1 win against Kingston in the title game. They also earned a share with Kingston for the Class 2A regular-season championship in the combined 3A/2A Olympic League.

Now, however, KSS (15-6) has its sights much higher: making a splash at state, something the team has never done. In fact, the Eagles are winless in four state tournament appearances, the most recent loss coming in 2007 to Sehome, 13-2.

The Eagles open the Class 2A state tournament against W.F. West (21-1), the regular-season champions out of the Evergreen League. W.F. West’s only loss was 7-6 against River Ridge at districts and it outscored its opponents 231-21.

“They are a very tough team,” assistant coach Rob Green said at practice Monday. “They’ve established themselves this year in a tough division.”

But the Eagles have found success this season behind senior pitchers Eric Eley and Kurtis Pitcher, who together have combined to throw 95 1/3 innings. Eley, who earned the win in the district championship game, is 6-3 with a 1.97 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings. Pitcher, meanwhile, is 4-2 with a 2.33 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 42 innings.

“They are very much like us, but they are more offensive-oriented,” Green said of W.F. West. “It will be a battle of our pitchers against their offense.”

Added Eley, “We really don’t know too much about this team, but we know they are good. We’re going to have to play our ‘A’ game.”

Both Eley and Pitcher will be available when the Eagles take the field at 10 a.m. tomorrow in Chehalis; a good thing because with a first-round win, the Eagles would play a quarterfinals game against either Burlington-Edison or Hockinson at 4 p.m. the same day.

But with two reliable starters, KSS figures to stay close against any team it plays.

“One game at a time,” Eley said of the mentality going into state. “We’re playing to win each game we’re in.”

The road to state also included district victories against Eatonville, 8-2, and Fife, 4-2, before the Kingston victory in the championship. Eley beat Eatonville in the first round, Pitcher took care of Fife in the second and Eley shut down Kingston, throwing a complete game with seven strikeouts.

“I was just pitching low and away, keeping them off balance and changing speeds,” Eley said. “I kind of new what their strengths were and how to pitch to their hitters. There were no surprises.”

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