Prep playoffs could mirror Mariners excitement

If you were one of the 44,164 folks who attended the Mariners final Saturday game of the season a couple of weeks ago, consider yourself among the lucky.

The Seattle baseball club ultimately fell short of its admirable effort to reach the postseason for the first time since 2001, but its run of 11 wins in 13 games to reach the final weekend of the season with a chance to be a wild card made plenty of cynics into believers, even if just for a short time.

The season was on the line that Saturday, the Mariners ace, Chris Flexen, was on the mound, and a sellout crowd made T-Mobile Park, loud, rocking and raucuous all game long. Fans continually waved their yellow “Believe” signs and were eager to make noise even without encouragement from the scoreboard.

And the crackling electricity never waned. It certainly did not when Mitch Haniger sent a rocket into The Pen in left-centerfield to give Seattle a 3-1 lead. The passion was still there after Jared Walsh hit a 426-foot home run to right-center in the eighth to put the Angels ahead. The fans still believed there would be another comeback, and they were right.

You know the rest of the story — Haniger knocks in two runs with a hard single to left to give the Mariners a 5-4 lead and then Kyle Seager drops a base hit into centerfield to grab an insurance run. Then closer Drew Steckenrider takes care of business in the ninth. The season was temporarily saved, and it was one of the greatest spectacles Seattle has seen in years.

And if we shift our focus to the preps, we can start to see which teams could capture our attention in the postseason as the regular season concludes at the end of October. If you’re following football closely, you’ve seen that North Kitsap is No. 2 in the WIAA’s RPI rankings. RPI will be used as one tool for seeding committees when it comes time for the state tournaments.

They were previously the No. 1 team, but Steilacoom leap-frogged them after beating No. 8 Enumclaw last week. It’s not a perfect measure — defending champion Tumwater has one loss in which it went down to the wire with a 6A power from Oregon and is currently ranked No. 5 — nor is it a finished product until the regular season is complete. But it will be interesting to see where the Vikings finish up if they can run the table in the Olympic League. They host Bremerton Friday night in Poulsbo in what should be another good test.

In girls soccer, you can find two teams in the top five in 3A — Central Kitsap and Bainbridge. The Cougars aren’t much of a surprise as they have been one of the most successful 3A programs over the last couple of years, including a third-place finish at state in 2019.

At No. 5 is Bainbridge, which recorded its only loss against Central Kitsap early in the season. Just two seasons ago, the Spartans won only one game, but they have made a quick turnaround, and the RPI hasn’t dinged them for playing in the 2A Olympic League, which is much more competitive this season than in past years.

If you watched Bainbridge and North Kitsap go head-to-head in volleyball a couple of weeks ago, you saw the potential both teams have to make noise in their respective state tournaments this year.

North Kitsap is ranked behind Sequim as of this writing due to a slightly lower strength of schedule — which again makes RPI more of a work in progress than a finished product — though that may change by publication time as the two teams were scheduled to meet Tuesday night. Similarly, Bainbridge, which will almost certainly take home a top-three finish in the Olympic League, will get the chance to prove it can hang with the higher-ranked 3A teams. They are ranked No. 14 behind a few Metro teams they would normally play in a given year.

Keep an eye on these teams and more as we march toward the district and state playoffs. November madness is just around the corner.