Back-to-back losses against Fife, Kingston end season. Klahowya falls one game shy of state

BREMERTON — After beating Sequim in the quarterfinals, Klahowya (12-10) needed just one more victory in the West Central District III 2A Baseball Tournament to reach state.

BREMERTON — After beating Sequim in the quarterfinals, Klahowya (12-10) needed just one more victory in the West Central District III 2A Baseball Tournament to reach state.

But in two games Saturday — first against Fife, then against Olympic League rival Kingston — the Eagles couldn’t earn that elusive win.

Fife prevailed 7-1. Kingston followed, 12-7.

“If you look at the good before the bad, you want to lose to good teams,” coach Dave Neet said of the losses, “and that’s what happened.

“Hats off to both teams. They are very well coached (and) have great talent.”

In the opener against Fife (19-2), senior Rusty Devitt, returned to the mound and kept Klahowya close, pitching into the sixth inning.

But with a runner on first base and the score tied 1-1 in the top of the fifth, Devitt misfired on a throw to first base after Fife’s Nick Latta laid down a sacrifice bunt. The error allowed sophomore Cameron Booser to score all the way from second, putting Fife ahead 2-1, a lead the Trojans never relinquished.

Devitt escaped the jam, keeping it 2-1 after five, but an inning later, the floodgates opened.

After two quick outs to open the sixth, Fife’s Bryan Vanwert battled back from an 0-2 count, fouling off three pitches to run the count full, and knocked a single to left.

The hit ignited a stretch of aggressive base-running and clutch hitting from Fife, and a series of fielding blunders by Klahowya.

“You saw the wheels falling off a little bit,” Neet said of the late-game mishaps, citing his team’s youth and Fife’s experience as the difference in the game.

“We were playing against a team full of seniors,” he said. “In games like this, the team with the most experience usually succeeds.”

Composed of 11 seniors, Fife put the ball in play during the latter stages of the game to take advantage of a tiring Devitt, who hadn’t pitched more than three innings in a game all season.

“That’s the furthest (Devitt) has gone all season. You could see his velocity was down,” Neet said. “Their experience at the plate really showed.”

Despite the loss, Neet praised his starter’s efforts.

“Rusty put it all on the line,” he said. “He did it for the team.”

Senior Jesse Abdon, Fife’s No. 3 pitcher, went the distance, allowing only one run on five strikeouts.

“He was a pitcher I thought for sure we’d adjust to,” Neet said of his squad’s hitting. “(But) he pitched a great game.”

The bats came back to life against Kingston (14-9) in the loser-out, winner-to-state finale, posting seven runs, but late-game pitching woes again bit the Eagles.

With five runs in the fifth, one in the sixth and three in the seventh, Kingston posted nine runs over the final three innings to grab the 12-7 win.

“The hitting was definitely there,” Neet said. “Most of our missed opportunities were on the defensive side.”

Unable to post the third out after getting two, the Eagles left the door open too many times against the Bucs.

“That’s kind of been our thing all year,” Neet said. “To get two outs, but not three, is very frustrating.”

While Klahowya’s 2008 season has officially ended, the Eagles have plenty to look forward to in ’09.

With all but four players returning — seniors Devitt, Jordan Green, Jeff Kenison and Tony Livick will graduate — the team figures to compete for an Olympic League championship.

“We have our whole pitching staff coming back,” Neet said. “Our entire infield is coming back.”

And with another year of success on their belt, the Eagles are flying higher and higher in the Olympic League.

“We’re starting to be known as a school with a baseball team,” Neet said.