POULSBO — There’s no doubt about it — North Kitsap missed an opportunity Tuesday in a game with first place in the Olympic League on the line.
The Vikings held a 3-2 lead over Port Angeles heading into the sixth inning, but some defensive mistakes by North Kitsap would prove to be costly in a 5-4 loss.
Roughriders sophomore Brody Merrit reached on an error and then came around to score on another to tie the game at 3. In the seventh, after North Kitsap pitcher Ryland Schmidt hit leadoff batter Joel Wood, a base hit by Ethan Flodstrom was misplayed in right field, allowing him to make it to third and Wood to score. An RBI single by Colton McGuffey then gave Port Angeles a two-run cushion.
“One team made plays, the other team didn’t,” head coach Jeff Weible said. “That’s what it comes down to. You get opportunities to make a play or not make a play, and we didn’t make a play. That’s what happens. They took advantage of it.”
But despite the loss, players were certain that the team would rebound and be ready to face the Roughriders again on April 30.
“No doubt we’ll bounce back,” said catcher Kyle Green. “There’s still plenty of time, too.”
North Kitsap had jumped out to a 3-2 lead in the fifth. With Peter Klos on first, Josh Fisher executed a hit-and run on a pitch that was nearly in the dirt, putting two runners on. A wild pitch by McGuffey allowed Klos to score and Issac Richardson brought home Fisher with an RBI single. After Green singled and Ryan Hecker walked to load the bases, Tucker Gowin drew a free pass to put the Vikings ahead.
“We got down early, the kids stayed in it, battled hard, and took the lead,” Weible said.
The Vikings nearly tied the game again in the seventh. Green walked to open the frame and moved up to third on a wild pitch and passed ball. After Hecker flew out, Gowin crushed a ball to left field that likely would have sailed over the fence for a two-run homer had there not been a stiff wind blowing directly in from left. That fly ball did score Green to make it 5-4, but the rally fell short.
Ryan Hecker started for North Kitsap and didn’t quite have his best stuff, though he still only gave up one earned run on four hits and picked up five strikeouts. Port Angeles hitters did an excellent job of fouling off tough pitches to stay in their at-bats against the Vikings’ ace.
“It felt like my velocity was down a little today,” Hecker said. “… I was just down, my fastball felt down, and I threw my slider a lot. Normally, my slider is 78-81 [mph] or 82, so it’s coming in pretty hard, but today they were able to see it a little better.”
North Kitsap’s next game came against North Mason on Wednesday, April 26, which occurred after press deadline for the North Kitsap Herald. The Vikings play April 28 at Cheney Stadium against Decatur before the rematch with Port Angeles on April 30 out on the Olympic Peninsula.
Port Angeles 5, North Kitsap 4
PA 0 0 2 0 0 1 2 — 5 9 1
NK 0 0 0 0 3 0 1 — 4 8 4
WP: Merrit LP: Schmidt
Port Angeles — McGuffey 4 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 BB; Merrit 3 IP, H, R, ER, 3 BB, 2 K.
North Kitsap — Hecker 4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K; Schmidt 3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 0 ER.
Port Angeles — Flodstrom 2-4, SB, 2 R; McGuffey 2-4, 2 RBI, R; Bradow 2-4.
North Kitsap — Gowin 1-2, 2 RBI, BB; Hecker 1-3, BB; Green 1-3, BB, R; Fisher 1-1, 2 BB, R; Richardson 1-3, RBI, R.
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MKrulishKDN.