EAST BREMERTON — It’s hard to cap off the regular season better than the way Central Kitsap did April 30.
Thanks to a sacrifice fly off the bat of junior Malo Castro, the Cougars stung Yelm with a walk-off 3-2 win in a wild ninth inning that consisted of two game-altering errors.
And it all started with a routine ground ball.
Junior Geordan Kawahara should have been the first out in the bottom of the ninth inning, but an errant throw allowed him to not only reach base, but motor into second.
Then, a pickoff attempt sailed into the outfield, prompting Kawahara to, after short hesitation, move over to third base. With an opportunity to come up in the clutch, Castro did just that. He lifted a medium fly ball into the outfield. It wasn’t a guaranteed run, but it was a chance the Cougars had to take.
Kawahara trotted back to third, tagged up and set his sights on home plate. Suddenly, he was a sprinter instead of a baseball player. As the throw came in high, Kawahara went low to slide right over home plate. He was safe.
“The thing I liked was we stayed in it,” Central Kitsap head coach Bill Baxter said after the game.
Central Kitsap had more runs than hits in the match. In fact, the team’s last base knock came with two outs in the third inning. The Cougars were suppressed at the plate, but luckily the Tornadoes were, too.
Kade Coombe was unavailable to start due to injury, Baxter said, and the ball coach instead called on a couple of youngsters to get the job done.
Freshman Chandler Lindstrom came on in relief in the fifth inning and he had everything working for him. Lindstrom struck out five and didn’t surrender a walk in five innings. Although he gave up one run, his work was enough to keep Central Kitsap in it until the last pitch.
Lindstrom said he felt really good about his performance and being able to help out the Cougars on varsity is exciting. He was called up after the first JV game was rained out. In his first game, he opened eyes by pounding out two base hits.
Nate DeSchryver, who didn’t have much control early on, started for the Cougars. The freshman pitcher walked the first batter of the game then immediately gave up a base hit. He gave up a run, but an impressive play by shortstop Fred Buckson helped him and CK escape even more damage.
Buckson ranged far to his left, gloved a ground ball and spun around to fire an inning-ending rocket to first base.
“It makes me feel really good that I’ve got two young arms that are going to be with me for three more years after this year [and] who are going to do nothing but get stronger, bigger and more confident,” Baxter said.
DeSchryver walked the tightrope again in the second inning after issuing a free pass to the first two batters he faced and plunking another hitter later in the frame. However, he struck out the side to end the threat.
Central Kitsap broke through with the bats in the bottom half of the third inning. A clutch, two-out triple by catcher Austin McMinds gave his team their first lead of the game. Two runs came in to score on the junior’s mammoth hit that went well over the right fielder’s head. That was the Cougars’ only hit with runners in scoring position.
“He’s our MVP in my book,” Baxter said of McMinds, adding that the junior athlete is a workhorse behind home plate.
Next up for the third-seeded Cougars is a date with Spanaway Lake in the WCD/SW Bi-District Tournament. That game is scheduled for 11 a.m., May 5 at Heidelberg Park in Tacoma.
“It was pretty nice to have two freshmen go out there,” Baxter said, “especially going into the playoffs knowing that I [have] two more arms that I can count on.”
Central Kitsap 3, Yelm 2
WP: Lindstrom LP: Doyle
Yelm 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 — 2 5 2
CK 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 — 3 2 4
Yelm — Waite 5 1/3 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 H, 3 BB, 11 K; Doyle 3 2/3 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 H, 3 BB.
Central Kitsap — DeSchryver 4 IP, H, R, ER, 3 BB, 6 K; Lindstrom 5 IP, 4 H, R, ER, 5 K.
Yelm — Peterson 2-2, SB, R; Gifford 1-5, RBI; Phelps 1-5, RBI.
Central Kitsap — Taafe 0-2, 2 BB, R; McMinds 1-4, 3B, 2 RBI.