Playoff push begins for Olympic League baseball teams

Olympic High School senior Riley Crow hurls a pitch against the Vikings of North Kitsap High School. Olympic is in second place in the Olympic league behind North Kitsap. - Brian Olson/file photo
Olympic High School senior Riley Crow hurls a pitch against the Vikings of North Kitsap High School. Olympic is in second place in the Olympic league behind North Kitsap.
— image credit: Brian Olson/file photo

Finish strong and don’t give up.

That’s about the only message left for Klahowya Secondary School coach Dave Neet to deliver to his team, which has lost five games by one run and would not make the playoffs if the season ended today.

“I’m running out of things to say to them,” Neet said. “Sometimes it just comes down to the baseball gods and it doesn’t fall your way.”

Almost nothing has fallen the way of the Eagles (4-9 overall, 3-8 league), who for the first time in three seasons will not earn at least a share of the Class 2A division title in the combined 3A/2A Olympic League.

Klahowya entered Thursday’s game against Bremerton High School in fourth place among 2A teams, needing to finish third or better to advance to the playoffs. Kingston High School and Sequim High School are currently in first and second place, respectively, and North Mason High School is in third.

“We are in a hole, we’ve got to dig ourselves out,” Neet said.

To move up in the standings Klahowya must find a way to win close games.

Last season the team was 7-1 in games decided by one or two runs. But in five one-run games in 2010, the Eagles are winless.

Neet couldn’t attribute the narrow losses to one weakness, saying there have been a variety of reasons. From base running to hitting to pitching to fielding, the Eagles have struggled during the latter stages of games.

“We’re not playing terribly bad, but we’re finding ways to lose games,” Neet said.

Klahowya has lost three league games over the past two weeks by one run — falling to Kingston 2-1 April 16, Sequim 7-6 April 20 and Port Angeles High School 5-4 April 23.

Throw in two more one-run losses earlier this season and two others by two runs, and the Eagles have lost seven games by a combined nine runs.

But despite that, the team has not been eliminated from the postseason.

The Eagles face undefeated North Kitsap High School on Friday before concluding the regular season against Olympic High School, North Mason and Post Townsend High School next week.

The Bulldogs of North Mason (5-10 overall, 5-7 league) lead the Eagles by one-and-one-half games for the final playoff berth.

Ticket punched, Trojans prep for postseason

Olympic High School won’t face a must-win game until next week.

That’s because the Trojans have secured second place among Class 3A teams in the combined 3A/2A Olympic League. They cannot overtake first-place North Kitsap, but they cannot be caught by third-place Port Angeles.

The result is a guaranteed berth to the playoffs. The team will begin the postseason with a loser-out, sub-district game May 11 against a team from the Seamount League or the South Puget Sound League.

“It’s a luxury for us because we can rest our pitchers and concentrate on staying healthy,” coach Nate Andrews said. “Other teams are still fighting to get into the playoffs.”

Olympic (11-4 overall, 9-3 league) has won eight of its past nine games, including a 5-3 victory last week against Class 4A Gig Harbor of the Narrows League, and its only loss in a month was against North Kitsap, undefeated and ranked No. 4 in the state.

“Watch out for us because we’re playing good ball,” said senior outfielder Blake Johnson.

Johnson is one of six senior starters to return from last year’s team, which missed the state tournament after qualifying for it in 2008. It was a disappointing ending to a season that started with high expectations.

But Johnson believes now the team is playing better than it has all season, peaking at the right time. He acknowledged the goal for the six senior starters is to get to the state tournament, as they did in 2008.

“We’ve all worked so hard for so many years,” Johnson said. “It’s a good group of guys, and most of us aren’t going to play baseball next season. So this is it.”

Olympic’s sub-district opponent will be determined May 7, when the No. 3 teams from the Seamount League and South Puget Sound League play.

The winner earns a No. 5 seed and faces Olympic, which will enter sub-districts as a No. 4 seed. The Trojans conclude the regular season with four games in five days — Friday against Sequim, Saturday against Central Kitsap High School, Monday against Klahowya, and against Kingston on a day to be determined.

“We’re going to take it day by day,” Andrews said. “We’re not going to change what we’re doing, we’re going to keep chugging along.”

Future getting brighter at Bremerton

Despite entering the final week of the regular season with a 2-13 record, Bremerton coach Rob Tomlinson believes the future is bright.

The Knights (2-13 overall, 2-10 league) will finish the 2010 season in last place among Class 3A teams in the combined 3A/2A Olympic League.

But Tomlinson said many of the players are already looking forward to this summer because they are planning to play select ball, something Tomlinson believes is essential for Bremerton to become a winning program. One of Tomlinson’s primary goals entering the season, his first at the helm, was to change the team’s mindset.

Bremerton was a combined 4-33 in 2008 and 2009. There was not enough accountability, Tomlinson said, and the players accepted losing as status quo.

“I really get the impression from some players and many parents that the program should be run like Little League or PeeWee organizations, where all kids must play,” he said. “I’m trying hard to change that mindset, and think I’ve really set the tone this year.”

Although the Knights’ win-loss record may not indicate it, Tomlinson feels the team has been — and will continue to be — competitive. He said the club is better than it was on day one of the season and has the ability to win each of its final three games — against Kingston, Port Angeles and Port Townsend.

“We just need to lock it down, play defense and hit the ball,” he said.

Over the summer and into next season, Tomlinson hopes to see his players become more aggressive at the plate. The team had scored three runs or fewer in eight of 14 games entering Thursday’s contest against Klahowya.

Devin Garcia, Kaden Tomlinson and Bud Coy have been the most consistent hitters. They are tied for the team lead in RBI with 10. Five Knights are batting above .300.

With those players returning, coupled with the fact some of the others will improve by playing select ball, Rob Tomlinson expects Bremerton to be competitive next season.

“I will continue to send the message that the best players will stay on the field,” he said. “Bremerton High School will be in every game to win it.”

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