EAST BREMERTON — One of the hardest things to do in baseball, a game of failure, is to bounce back after a tough loss. But the Buccaneers did just that when they mashed their way to a 13-8 victory over River Ridge on May 9.
Don’t let the eight runs allowed fool you; junior pitcher Tim Melzer dominated the Hawks for six innings. Hitters were slamming their bats all day long — an inadvertent compliment to the masterpiece Melzer crafted from the mound.
“They were frustrated,” he said after the game.
And understandably so. North Kitsap knocked around River Ridge with a 9-0 thumping to start the postseason. Then, Kingston tore the Hawks up offensively by tagging them for 13 runs. After Melzer was pulled, all that frustration finally translated into six runs during the seventh inning. But it was too late for River Ridge.
The Buccaneers held on for a mammoth win in an even bigger game, considering the circumstances. After losing 12-2 against White River, Kingston was facing elimination from the postseason. Instead, the Bucs kept their hopes to play in the state tournament alive by refusing to go quietly.
“Hungry,” Melzer said of his team’s mentality entering Wednesday’s game. “We just wanted to win because we haven’t been in the playoffs for six years. [It feels] really good.”
This all followed a 10-run loss over the previous weekend that was hard to swallow. Kingston’s ace Jack Hermanson consistently got more than three outs per inning in his pitching performance against the Hornets on May 5. Seven errors behind him, though, made it nearly impossible to pitch around — and he did not come away unscathed.
While many of the runs were unearned, Hermanson had eight associated with his name. That is unusual, to say the least, for the hard-throwing right-hander. And to prove that he was on his game that sunny morning, Hermanson didn’t allow a walk while striking out six in six innings of work.
“I thought I threw the ball pretty well,” he said after the May 5 game.
And his teammates must have thought so, too, as many of them came up to pat Hermanson on the back or speak words of encouragement during a post-game interview. One of those Buccaneers, senior Gage Updegrove, specifically said he thought Hermanson pitched well enough to earn a victory — and probably should have.
One of the positions Hermanson was particularly thrilled about was behind the dish. Catching for him was junior Tyler Bates. While teammates were quick to congratulate Hermanson on a great performance, the pitcher praised Bates for his work as a catcher.
“He is extremely important,” Hermanson said. “I told him him a few times after the game that that was probably his best performance.”
Bates not only showcased a strong arm, leadership and a vocal presence, he blasted a double to left-center field. The junior may be small in stature, Hermanson said, but he proves opposing teams wrong.
For example, River Ridge brought its outfielders in when Bates first stepped up to the plate in game two but he hit a hard, line-drive double over the left fielder’s head. Needless to say, the outfielders were asked to move back instead of up in Bates’ next at-bat.
“He just goes out and proves them wrong,” Hermanson said.
And like Bates, the Bucs have proved many wrong, too. On paper, the Hawks looked as if they had a better chance of moving on. The Hawks were the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament and compiled a 13-1 league record in the SPSL 2A Sound Division.
But Kingston didn’t care about the odds.
The Bucs now prepares for a return to Franklin Pierce with first pitch set for 12:30 p.m. Saturday against Steilacoom in another elimination game. If Kingston wins and the stars align, the team could face Olympic, a squad they beat earlier this year, in a game that would see the winner go on to state and the loser end its season.
— Jacob Moore is a reporter for Kitsap Daily News. Contact him at Jmoore@Soundpublishing.com or follow him on Twitter @JMooreKDN.