BREMERTON — Down 4-1 in the final inning? No problem.
Central Kitsap baseball needed some luck or a few clutch base hits to beat Capital High School on April 3. Lucky for the Cougars, they got both.
Capital junior pitcher Kyle Casperson, tired as he was having already retired 26 batters, looked in at his catcher. He wanted one more out, but Central Kitsap needed one more run. Junior Carson Wiler stepped into the batter’s box, looking for a fastball. And he got one.
Wiler laced a single, bringing senior Teagan Taafe home to tie the game. This drew a throw from the outfield, allowing Wiler to take second base on the play. The baton was then handed off to senior Tristian Barr.
After loud cheers from hometown fans in celebration of the comeback, there was utter silence. A whisper could be heard during Barr’s at bat. Then, a couple sighs. Barr hit a routine ground ball right to the shortstop and it looked as if the game was headed to extra innings as the ball rolled right to the fielder.
But the ball kept rolling. Right under the shortstop’s glove it went. Meanwhile, junior Kaden McDowell, who was pinch-running for Wiler had both eyes locked in on home plate. As he raced for home, the throw came in behind him. It was too late, though. CK climbed all the way back into the game in the seventh inning and won it there by a final of 5-4.
“It wasn’t looking too good for us,” Wiler said. “We were struggling … but then we started rallying in the seventh inning.”
Casperson threw six innings of one-run, two-hit ball for Capital. There was no question that he’d be back out in the seventh to try and close the game, earn the win and move up in the standings. The question was if he would be pulled during the inning after giving up two runs.
“I think his fastball was a little bit slower in the last couple of innings,” Wiler said. “We all caught up to him finally and put the ball in play.”
The inning began with a foul pop out. Freshman Nate DeSchryver was called on to pinch-hit. He got the hitting rally started with a single. This gave CK hope as the top of the lineup turned over. Senior Fred Buckson, who uncharacteristically struggled at the plate with three strikeouts, also took advantage of a fatigued Casperson.
Buckson singled to string together a couple hits for the first time in the contest offensively. Taafe followed up with a single of his own to load the bases. A wild pitch and a sacrifice fly off the bat of junior Austin McMinds brought home two runs. That’s when the magic happened.
Central Kitsap head coach Bill Baxter said he wished his team would’ve jumped on Casperson earlier instead of getting under the ball and popping it up as often as they did. He added that the popups were not just because Casperson was throwing the ball well, but also because his batters were trying to do too much at the plate.
“They had 15 outs, including strikeouts and popups where all they had to do was catch the ball,” he said.
On the mound for Central Kitsap was junior Owen Davies. He struggled early in the game, hitting the leadoff batter on the first pitch and walking the next one. A double play helped him escape with only one run in damage.
The first two batters again reached in the fifth, this time on singles. But again, the next hitter grounded into a double play. A run crossed home plate in what had the potential to be a much longer inning.
“All you ask for is an opportunity to win,” Baxter said. “We made some mistakes and gave them some runs, but we didn’t open up the door and let them get crooked numbers on us.”
Sophomore Kade Coombe came on in relief for Central Kitsap in the sixth inning. Baxter said Coombe has been his guy when he goes to the bullpen because he attacks the strike zone.
“He’s going to give up hits, but he’s a guy that comes in and keeps them off balance for a couple of innings,” he said. “When he starts getting his curveball over, he’s going to be way tougher than what he is now — and he’s just a sophomore.”
Coombe gave up a few base knocks and a run to Capital, but he struck out two hitters while stranding a couple of baserunners. And as it turns out, he and Davies held Capital’s offense to just enough runs to give his team a fighting chance.
With the victory, Central Kitsap now ties Capital and two other conference teams for first place in the league standings. The Cougars are back out on the diamond for a 4 p.m. first pitch on April 10 against Gig Harbor at the Fairgrounds.