EAST BREMERTON — The North Kitsap boys baseball team has had their ups and downs this season, but on May 5 at the Fairgrounds in their first two district games, they made things look pretty easy.
The Vikings rode the top-notch pitching performances of Jordan Robbins and Ryan Hecker to a state tournament berth on Saturday, defeating Lindbergh, 10-4, and the No. 2 overall seed River Ridge, 9-0, in the West Central District III playoffs.
Hecker dominated River Ridge in the second game of the day, tossing a one-hit shutout while striking out nine and making rather short work of a Hawks squad that went 13-1 in the SPSL 2A this season. He also did plenty of damage at the plate, going 2 for 4 with 3 RBIs, including a huge two-run single in the fifth inning that gave North Kitsap a 5-0 lead.
“I thought we had great defense behind me today and it helped a lot,” Hecker said. “I felt more confident to attack the zone, whether they hit it or I strike them out. Either way, we were going to get them out.”
The defense looked particularly sharp on a pair of fantastic double plays, both of the 4-6-3 variety, that helped Hecker out of a couple of minor jams.
The Hawks had runners on first and second in the first inning when a Jeter Larson ground ball was hit hard to Max Larsen at second base, who quickly flipped the ball to shortstop Isaac Richardson. He then turned it to complete the double play. The pair turned another one in the fourth inning.
Hecker also helped himself in the second when he struck out the eighth and ninth hitters after pitching himself into a sticky situation. He had allowed a one-out walk and then hit the next batter. But River Ridge otherwise mustered little against North Kitsap’s ace.
“I felt good today,” Hecker said. “I felt like it was a must-win. With the way the bracket is set up, if you lose the first or second game, it puts you in the same spot. You don’t want to end up over there. It’s a bad situation.”
Kyle Green opened the scoring with a ringing RBI-double in the third. Larsen led off the inning with a walk and he was sacrificed to second by Richardson. After Josh Fisher walked, Green stepped up and blasted a ball into the gap to score Larsen. Hecker followed with an RBI single to score Fisher and Tucker Gowin chased home Green on a sacrifice fly to open a 3-0 lead.
In game one, Robbins took the mound and had a no-hitter going with one out in the fifth inning. At that point, the Vikings had a 10-0 lead and the game would have ended if he was able to get two more outs. Unfortunately, he gave up a double, and Lindbergh would end up scoring two runs to keep the contest going. Robbins gave up three hits and two earned runs in five innings; he struck out five.
Offensively, North Kitsap exploded for nine runs in the fourth inning, a situation that felt inevitable after the Vikings put two runners on base in each of the first three innings. But they only came away with one run on an RBI single by Peter Klos.
Green struck the big blow, a two-run single with the bases loaded. Logan Chmielewski also drove in a pair of runs during that frame.
The two wins guaranteed the Vikings a spot in the state tournament, though seeding will be determined by the remaining games to be played Saturday, May 12 at the Fairgrounds.
“Our first goal every year is to win the league championship. Unfortunately, we did not play well enough to do that this year,” head coach Jeff Weible said. “Our second goal is to make it to state, so we’re right where we want to be.”
North Kitsap’s next game is against Olympic League champion Port Angeles at 10 a.m. If the Vikings win, they play at 3 p.m. at the Fairgrounds for the district championship. If they lose, they play for third place at 4:30 p.m. at North Mason High School.
There’s no doubt the Vikings will be chomping at the bit for another shot at the Roughriders after dropping a 9-8 contest for the league championship on April 30. North Kitsap led 7-0 in the third inning of that game, but Port Angeles slowly chipped away over the final four innings.
“We talked a lot about belief this week,” Weible said. “A lot of times, when we don’t play well, it’s almost like we don’t believe we’re a good team and we kind of succumb to the pressure of the situation. I thought the kids stepped right up today and had a good approach to the game and were ready to go.”
Game 1: North Kitsap 10, Lindbergh 4
WP: Robbins LP: Tift
LB 0 0 0 0 2 0 2 — 4 3 1
NK 0 1 0 9 0 0 x — 10 9 2
Lindbergh — Tift 3 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 5 BB, K; Hilfer 0 IP, H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB; L. King 3 IP, 3 H, BB, 2 K.
North Kitsap — Robbins 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 K; Schmidt 2 IP, 3 BB, 2 R, ER, 2 K.
Lindbergh — Hilfer 1-2, 2B, RBI, BB, R; L. King 1-2, 2B, BB, 2 R; S. King 1-3, 2B, RBI.
North Kitsap — Green 2-2, 2 RBI, BB, R; Klos 3-4, 2 RBI, 2 SB, R; Gowin 1-3, RBI, BB, 2 R; Richardson 1-2, 2 BB, SB, R; Chmielewski 1-2, 2 RBI; Robbins 0-0, BB, RBI; Fisher 1-5, RBI, BB, R; Larsen 1-2, 2 BB, SB, R.
Game 2: North Kitsap 9, River Ridge 0
WP: Hecker LP: Larson
NK 0 0 3 0 5 0 1 — 9 9 1
RR 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 1 3
North Kitsap — Hecker 7 IP, H, 3 BB, 2 HBP, 9 K.
River Ridge — Larson 5 IP, 8 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 5 BB, HBP, 3 K; Kalama IP; Ostling IP, H, R, ER, HP.
North Kitsap — Hecker 2-4, 3 RBI, R; Green 2-4, 2B, RBI, 2 R; Gowin 1-3, 2 RBI, R; Chmielewski 1-2, RBI, 2 BB; Klos 2-4, 2B; Robbins 1-2, 2 R, 2 HBP; Richardson 1-2, BB, R.
River Ridge — Park 1-3; Noll 0-1, 2 BB.