PUYALLUP — It was the exclamation point on an thrilling win as Vikings No. 1 pitcher Kelly Wells excitedly threw his glove to the ground, before being mobbed by his teammates.
Wells went the distance and got the outs when he needed to, preserving North’s 6-3 victory against Graham Kapowsin on Saturday in the West Central District playoffs at Heritage Park in Puyallup.
The win advanced North to the Class 4A Regional Tournament at 1 p.m. Saturday at Everett Memorial Stadium. The Vikings are the No. 3 seed out of the West Central District.
“This feels absolutely amazing,” Wells said. “I can’t even describe it.”
Wells said he began to feel anxious and excited when he heard he would be taking the hill against Graham-Kapowsin May 10.
“I was pretty nervous going into this game,” he said. “I couldn’t get much sleep the last few days. I was more than happy to be on the mound today.”
Wells came through for North, grinding out a hard-fought victory. He went all seven innings giving up 10 hits and three runs while striking out three batters in the contest.
North coach Jeff Weible said he was proud of how Wells handled the pressure of a district playoff game.
“Kelly did a great job of coming back and battling all game long,” he said. “He was scrappy today. I felt really confident about having Kelly go the whole way today. We stayed with him. He did a great job and did it for us.”
North third baseman Kramer Uvila got the Vikings off to a good start, blasting a two-run homer to left center field in top of the first inning, giving the Vikings an early 2-0 lead.
“That was a big hit by Kramer,” Weible said. “Going into this game, I knew we needed to get some early runs to get us going. It was big for us to do that.”
Like the resilient and talented them they proved to be Graham-Kapowsin battled back, taking a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the third inning.
After back to back strikeouts by Reuben Smith and Jordan Tucker, North’s bats came alive in the top of the fourth. Kyle Loescher got the North attack rolling with a two-out single through the left side of the infield. Loescher advanced to second on a passed ball, setting the stage for Vikings right-fielder Josh Corso. Corso connected on a Jake Shadle pitch on the outside corner, driving the ball deep to right field.
It appeared the towering fly ball had a chance to leave the yard, but the ball glanced off the upper portion of the fence in right field. Loescher scored easily tying the game at three apiece while Corso showed his wheels, motoring around to third base for a triple.
“I just wanted to protect the plate and get on base. When I hit it, I actually thought it had a chance to go out,” Corso said. “Everybody was screaming and yelling. It felt pretty good.”
Vikings ninth batter Jeff Jones then came through with possibly the biggest play of the season for North. Jones connected on a high chopper ground ball to the left side of the infield. Graham Kapowsin’s Austin Burton charged the ball, firing it to first base for what he thought was a routine out. Jones hustled down the line, beating the throw with a head-first slid. Corso scored on the play giving North a 4-3 lead.
“Jeff is one of the fastest guys on the team,” Corso said. “I figured it would be a close play at first. I ran to home plate as fast as I could and hoped Jeff would be safe at first. He made it.”
After an errant throw in a pick-off attempt by Shadle, Jones advanced to second, putting himself in scoring position. Vikings leadoff man Andy Smith hit a hard ground ball up the middle scoring the speedy Jones from second base. Graham Kapowsin center-fielder Will Matney’s throw was on target but Jones head-first slide edged past catcher David Neil at the plate for the Vikings’ fifth run of the game.
North added another run in the fifth, giving the Vikings a 6-3 lead they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way.
The win has Corso optimistic about his team’s chances of success at regionals.
“I am excited. We’re going to have to keep on working hard at practice and keep focusing on what we need to do as a team,” he said. “Hopefully we can pull through again like we did today.”