Sports

Bluejackets starting to feel the magic

KELOWNA, British Columbia — The Kitsap BlueJackets are starting to feel the magic.

With another series win, this time taking two-of-three from Kelowna (British Columbia), the BlueJackets' have reduced the team's magic number to just one game.

That means one win in the final three games and Kitsap is bound for the playoffs for the first time in its short West Coast Collegiate Baseball League history, no matter how the third place team, Bend (Ore) finishes.

But just like always, Kitsap coach Matt Acker has his players thinking business as usual, as the team is thinking of nothing but revenge against a Corvallis (Ore). team that has swept Kitsap in five meetings this season.

"You have to take care of business" Acker said. "We haven't beaten these guys yet. You want to win, you want to wind the season up strong."

Kitsap beat Kelowna 5-1 to open the series Friday behind another stellar outing from starter Matt Rossman. Rossman gave up the Falcons' only run in the first inning before shutting them down the rest of the way, finishing with eight strikeouts and no walks in seven innings of work.

"Matt threw great," Acker said. "He threw all his pitches for strikes. He was dominant."

Ryan Voelkel, playing first base, was 1-2 with two runs and an RBI double for Kitsap while drawing two walks. CK grad Tyler Owens went 2-3 with three RBI and Brandon Kuykendall had another stellar outing, hitting 3-5.

Kitsap broke out the bats Saturday, winning 9-5 in a game that featured a 5-run third inning for the Jackets. While Aaron Bronson had one of his shakier starts this year (two runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings), the bats backed him up. Left fielder Joey Lind went 2-4 with three runs and an RBI while catcher Lawson Hipps was 3-5 with a run. SK grad Josh Meeker drove in two to help the cause.

Acker said the team's bats have continued to stay ahead of where the team was last season.

"We're a little bit ahead," Acker said. "But we're a better team. We're just a little bit better."

Sunday caught up with Kitsap as the Jackets fell 11-3, giving up 17 hits in the game to the Falcons. While the team preps for the stretch run, Acker said he doesn't believe the team's worst loss this season will linger at all.

"I don't think it'll be that big a deal at all. Plus we had a day off following it," Acker said. "They did a good job taking care of business the first two days. We just ran into a bus on day three. But even until the last inning, our guys were like, 'Hey, let's score nine.'"

After topping the Falcons (10-26), Kitsap (23-13) is tied with the Knights atop the WCCBL West Division. The top two teams makes the playoffs and will compete in a divisional series that would begin this Monday. The No. 1 team would travel that day to the site of the No. 2 team before returning home for the final two games of the best-of-three series. Previously, the league had just had a championship series amongst its top two teams.

"I'm excited about it," Acker said of the new format. "Even if we had it the way it used to be, we'd still be the team heading to the championship right now. But I like it. It makes it interesting down the stretch run."

To keep the team loose down the stretch, Acker has started doing different incentive-based things to keep the team motivated.

"We do a lot of incentive-based things with 'em," he said. "Right now, it's just finding a way to motivate the team. We've never really had any problem with that. Every team is different. Some teams you give a break, some teams you get on 'em."

For example, hitters took a lighter batting practice (BP) last weekend. And the bullpen, if things go well, may even get a little BP themselves. Acker told the pen that if they cheered the whole game and the Jackets scored 10, they could step up to the plate for BP during a coming practice. Saturday, Kitsap scored nine and Acker called the pen "the best cheering section in Kelowna."

The Jackets dropped a pair of games to Corvallis this week, falling 6-2 on Tuesday night, and 5-2 on Wednesday. Kitsap returns home Friday for the final series of the season, hosting Spokane at 7 p.m. at Kitsap Fairgrounds Ballfields.

Extra Bases

Kitsap outfielder Brandon Kuykendall is still leading the WCCBL in hitting with three games to go, edging Wenatchee's Zach Mandelblatt .346 to .344. Joey Lind is leading the league in RBI with 24, while starter Kyle Howe is holding opponents to a league-best .168 average. He also co-leads the league with five wins alongside Moses Lake's Dale Reneau. With 21 appearances, Travis McCracken leads the league as well ...

Postseason ticket reservations are now available by calling the BlueJackets at (360) 479-0123.

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