South Kitsap senior Mac McCarty celebrates the final out of the Wolves’ 5-2 win May 30 against Newport in the Class 4A state championship game at Bellingham’s Joe Martin Field.

South Kitsap senior Mac McCarty celebrates the final out of the Wolves’ 5-2 win May 30 against Newport in the Class 4A state championship game at Bellingham’s Joe Martin Field.

BASEBALL | Wolves capture title in wild finale

South Kitsap needs eight innings to defeat Newport 5-2

South Kitsap state championships

Year Opponent Score

2015 Newport 5-2

2003 Federal Way 6-3

1996 Richland 13-4

1983 Davis 2-1

BELLINGHAM — Just before the cameras clicked, South Kitsap players stuck their pointer fingers upward in unison.

It was a long-awaited gesture for the Wolves, who defeated Newport 5-2 on May 30 at Joe Martin Field to win their first Class 4A state championship since 2003.

“They’re just excited to hold the 1s up because I never let them do it,” said third-year South coach Marcus Logue, whose team finished as the state runner-up in each of the last two seasons. “Once we won the Narrows League and the West Central [District] a couple of reserves were like, ‘Hey, let’s put the 1s up.’ I was like, ‘Nope, we’re not that team yet. You’ve got to earn that right.’ ”

The Wolves, who finished with a 20-7 record, first celebrated as they collectively tossed their gloves high into the air when senior left fielder Austin Hackman tracked down a towering fly ball off senior Jace Goforth’s bat in the eighth inning. South players and coaches later returned to the infield to celebrate with a sea of friends and family clad in maroon and yellow.

“I hate to see it end,” South senior Nathan Archuleta said. “I love these guys so much.”

Senior pitcher/third baseman Mac McCarty said the win is more meaningful to him because of the adversity the Wolves have faced. Last year, they lost 7-1 against undefeated Puyallup. Nine errors spoiled Logue’s first state championship appearance in 2013 with an 8-5 loss against Skyview.

“It feels amazing,” Archuleta said. “I’ve started crying like four or five times. So much emotion.”

That would be an apt description of a game where South took two leads only to watch the Knights (22-3-1) rally to tie. The Wolves took advantage of junior left-handed starter AJ Block’s control issues — he had three walks in the first inning — when McCarty hit a sacrifice fly to score center fielder Dusty Garcia.

But Newport responded in the fourth inning when senior outfielder Paul Wells hit a two-out double off junior left-hander Lucas Knowles. Second baseman Alex Lambeau then followed with an RBI single off Knowles, who left after that inning with what Logue described as an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow.

Logue said he told Archuleta before the game that he might be needed in relief. But after watching Knowles defeat Puyallup to claim the district title May 16 and then win against Skyline a week later during the regional game, he struggled to visualize himself on the mound.

“Coach told me that I might come in, but I didn’t expect it to be that early,” Archuleta said. “I was really shocked that Lucas came out.”

The Wolves, who have relied heavily on starters Knowles and McCarty throughout the season, were forced to entrust their championship hopes on Archuleta and sophomore Nathaniel Rowan.

“I don’t even know if Nathan has pitched in a game in awhile,” said McCarty, who was not available to pitch because he threw more than four innings during the May 29 state semifinal win against Decatur. “He comes in and shuts it down.”

Meanwhile, Block walked Archuleta and Garcia in the seventh inning before he was replaced by junior right-hander Nick Rudholm. Hackman then coaxed a walk out of Rudholm to load the bases. Up stepped McCarty, who drove an 0-2 pitch into left field to score Archuleta.

But the Knights threatened to deny South its fourth state championship — the Wolves also won it in 1983, 1996 and 2003 — during the bottom of the seventh. Senior shortstop Ethan Paul walked and Goforth singled before Logue replaced Archuleta with Rowan, who retired three of the next four batters — only senior catcher Vinny Guinasso reached on an intentional walk — to end the threat.

“That’s how you want it,” Logue said. “It’s stressful.”

McCarty did not dispute that.

“Our team never doubted we were going to win that game,” he said.

McCarty, who signed to play next season at Washington State University, played a significant role in that. Junior pinch-hitter Bryce Wolfe hit a one-out single and the Wolves loaded the bases with two outs when Rowan recorded a hit off the third baseman’s glove and Garcia followed with a walk. Hackman then drilled an RBI single off the third baseman’s mitt before McCarty plated two more on a hit to center field.

“Let’s just win this game,” McCarty said when asked about his thoughts before he stepped up. “It’s avoided me for so long.”

Logue could not find enough superlatives to describe McCarty, who finished 3 for 4 with four RBI.

“He’s unbelievable,” Logue said. “He’s the best 18-year-old in the country.”

No one seemed to doubt it was enough. That is because Logue said he and pitching coach Steve Dickey put several relievers through more work in practice after the bullpen surrendered six runs against Skyview during the May 23 regional opener at Everett Memorial. Logue said he deserved any criticism for those struggles because he felt he had not prepared them for that situation. Despite that, Logue never would have guessed he would have needed both Archuleta and Rowan in the title game.

“Who would’ve thought those guys would be pitching the state championship to finish it for us to get us where we need to be?” he said.

“I knew it was going to be tough from a pitching standpoint. Those guys we brought in were contact pitchers.”

But those line drives and fly balls off Newport’s bats mostly found gloves as the Knights had four hits in as many innings against Archuleta and Rowan. South also played an errorless game after committing nine two years ago against Skyview and three last year versus Puyallup.

Logue credited that — and his team’s ability to respond after a pair of squandered leads — to preparation. He noted that players gather to run at 5 a.m. on Mondays during the season.

“Talk about just resilient kids,” Logue said. “I told them out there that they got this because they’re the most humble team of high schoolers in the state. It’s an absolute result of the focus, effort and determination they’ve had since they were little.”

This marked the first time that the Wolves have advanced to the semifinals during three consecutive seasons. And to win the championship, they had to outlast three teams — Decatur, Gig Harbor and Newport — that all beat South at least once during the regular season.

McCarty said that Logue, who also won a state championship as a senior in 2004 at Port Townsend, deserves credit for those successes. Logue now has a 63-19 record with the Wolves.

“He did a really great job to inspire kids,” McCarty said. “He’s a great man overall. He’s someone I look up to.”

Class 4A state championship

South Kitsap 5, Newport 2 (8)

South Kitsap 100 000 13 5 8 0

Newport 000 100 10 2 8 1

AJ Block, Nick Rudholm (7) and Vinny Guinasso. Lucas Knowles, Nathan Archuleta (5), Nathaniel Rowan (7) and Alex Garcia.

W-Rowan. L-Rudholm.

Leading hitters-Mac McCarty (SK) 3-4 Sac 4 RBI, Paul Wells (N) 2-3 BB 2 2B run.

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