Sports

BlueJackets turn back WCCBL-leading Pirates

Former Central Kitsap third baseman Tyler Owens, now playing the hot corner for the BlueJackets, tags a would-be Moses Lake base stealer in Wednesday’s 2-1 win. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Former Central Kitsap third baseman Tyler Owens, now playing the hot corner for the BlueJackets, tags a would-be Moses Lake base stealer in Wednesday’s 2-1 win.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

No one can say the Kitsap BlueJackets aren’t consistent.

The Jackets (29-13, 21-12 in West Coast Collegiate Baseball League play), took two-of-three from WCCBL-best Moses Lake (23-10) this week the same way they have been all season: More one-run games, another marathon contest and a new round of late-game heroics.

Kitsap upended Moses Lake 8-7 Monday, fell in 16 innings Tuesday 5-3 and rebounded with a 2-1 win Wednesday.

But the best part of the wins, when combined with some select losses around the league, is that Kitsap vaulted Corvallis (Ore.) back into first place in the West Division. The Knights are a full game back.

“It puts a lot of pressure on Corvallis,” Kitsap coach Matt Acker said. “We control our own destiny, which is nice.”

Monday’s game was another back-and-forth affair, with seven lead changes before pinch hitter Keegan McCamment singled home Brandon Decker, for the game-winner with one out in the bottom of the ninth.

Starter Kyle Nunley went five strong for Kitsap, allowing just one earned run (three overall) with six strikeouts and two walks. Indianola’s Barrett Kanyer improved to 3-0 on the season with two scoreless innings of relief. Closer Joe Hagen earned his eighth save of the season.

Tuesday was lengthy, with the 16-inning barrage lasting 5 hours, 34 minutes. Kitsap alone used eighth arms, while Moses Lake threw four pitchers. And while the Pirates got two in the top of the 16th, Acker said the team had its chances.

“16 innings, we had our chances,” Acker said.

Two errors undid the Jackets in the frame, as Kanyer saw Pirate Billy Swanson reach on an error and then steal second base. Zach Kim then drew a walk and Kanyer hit Steve Tinoco with a pitch, loading the bases. Kitsap’s Brad Woodfield came in out of the pen, getting an out before Kevin Coddington singled two in.

Acker said extra-inning games are tough not because of the time, but because of the ensuing emotional roller coaster.

“The ups and downs; the emotional part,” Acker said. “Sometimes we go out there and we blow an opportunity to score. Nothing exciting happens to the other team, but we’re still affected. Sometimes you’re affected for two innings. So it’s just keeping them emotionally stable.”

With a number of close games and extra-inning games this season, Acker said it was nice to see his bullpen step up in needed situations. He said pitchers like Woodfield, who pitched well despite the loss, have been key to Kitsap’s ongoing success.

“It’s been good. The guys have done a great job,” he said. “We’re looking for different guys to step up.”

Wednesday was a pitcher’s duel between Kitsap ace Kyle Howe and Pirate standout Jorge Reyes, the College World Series’ most outstanding player from Oregon State University.

“Jorge Reyes versus Howe; not a bad match-up,” Acker said. “But it was Howe and (Brandon) Kuykendall. They were big.”

The game was deadlocked throughout, with the Pirates clinging to a 1-0 lead for six innings. In fact, Reyes entered the seventh with a no-hitter for Kitsap. But that’s when Kuykendall, who has lifted Kitsap in just about every way possible on the diamond this season, stepped up big again.

“He broke up Reyes’ no-hitter, stole second base, gets to third, we hit him in,” Acker said. “Then he makes a diving catch, throws a guy out from his knees at first.”

Kuykendall then singled home Decker for the game-winner in the bottom of the ninth again. He finished 2-4 with a run and an RBI.

But Howe pitching deep to lift the Jackets, and rest the bullpen, was a real key, Acker said.

“It was necessary for both teams to get a guy out there for quite a while,” Acker said. “Both of us needed our pitchers to step up and go deep.”

And while Howe and the rest of the Jackets were pleased with the win against Reyes, Acker said the win in general was far more important to Howe.

“I think so. But Howe’s more of a team guy,” Acker said. “He’s got pride in this team. He wants to see us win. For all the kids it’s a big deal. You beat the College World Series MVP. But Howe wants to win. He could care less if we beat their worst player.”

Coming off three tight games with Bend that featured two one-run losses, Acker said he was happy to take a series win against Moses Lake.

“It’s good,” Acker said. “It’s frustrating because we could have gone 3-0 in Bend. Then I thought we could go 2-1. But that’s just the way the game goes.

“But our kids, they’ve done a pretty good job. It’s pretty important. We were in all those games. It’s not like they let down. That’s the consistency I’m impressed with.”

Kitsap was off Thursday and set off for a six-game road trip Friday at Kelowna (British Columbia). Friday’s results were unavailable at press time.

Kitsap returns home Aug. 3 with the season-ending series against Spokane.

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