JR Ritchie stole the show in the championship game with a no-hitter and 18 strikeouts against Central Kitsap. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)

JR Ritchie stole the show in the championship game with a no-hitter and 18 strikeouts against Central Kitsap. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)

Ritchie’s no-hitter, 18 K’s lead BI to league title

2021 could have been an incredible year for the Bainbridge baseball program. They were invited to play in the illustrious USA Baseball High School Invitation in North Carolina, they were strong contenders for a Class 3A state championship and they had perhaps the best team in school history — and maybe one of the better teams Washington state has ever seen.

Head coach Geoff Brown knows a thing or two about special teams — he was part of Jackson High School’s 2006 team, led by future Major League Baseball first-round pick Travis Snider, that went 27-0 and won the 4A state championship. Brown was the starting pitcher (and also homered) in the championship game against Auburn at Safeco Field and told the Seattle Times earlier this year he believes this Bainbridge team has more talent.

The chance to play in North Carolina was a particularly high honor for the Spartans — high school teams from Washington tend to be overlooked at the national level.

But the COVID-19 pandemic wiped away much of that. A potential squabble with the Metro League never materialized as the high school invitational was canceled, as were the district and state tournaments, and Bainbridge ended up moving to the Olympic League for the season in part because Kitsap and King counties were in separate regions in the state’s reopening plan.

More adversity followed. After a 3-0 start to the season, an error-laden performance against Port Angeles resulted in an ugly 8-4 loss.

In hindsight, junior pitching standout JR Ritchie said the loss was a great wake-up call and shook them out of complacency. “Practices were not too much fun after that, but it was so crucial,” Ritchie said.

In the beginning of the spring, it looked like the baseball season would end with a simple double-round robin schedule, but the Olympic League put together a one-day tournament for the top teams in each league, giving Bainbridge a chance to prove itself under the lights.

“It’s something we talked about all year long,” Brown said. “I know we don’t have state playoffs this year, but this is our championship. Let’s go get it.”

The players could have dwelled on what might have been, or they could embrace the moment. And, oh, did they ever.

It may not have happened on the big stage at Gesa Stadium in Pasco, but this team still got its incredible ending Saturday night at Central Kitsap High School.

Ritchie threw his first high school no-hitter and struck out a career-high 18 batters in 2-0 victory over Central Kitsap to capture the league title.

To say Ritchie was dominant is an understatement. The UCLA-commit ripped off a streak of seven-consecutive strikeouts in the middle innings, and then closed out the fifth, sixth and seventh innings with eight-straight strikeouts.

“When you’ve got a mid-90s fastball, a plus slider and a plus change-up, you’re going to be very hard to beat,” Brown said. “His command is plus too. He’s the whole package.”

Ritchie rarely had to pitch out of trouble as the Cougars only managed a couple of base runners in the second inning. An error in the outfield put a runner on second, but he was erased on a fielder’s choice and Ritchie then struck out the last hitter to end the threat.

He didn’t have to deviate much from the game plan. He threw plenty of fastballs, mixing in the occasional breaking pitch to keep them off-balance, and Central Kitsap simply couldn’t catch up to the heat.

“I definitely wanted to get through the order the first time with the fastball,” Ritchie said, “and then the second time through the order I started throwing some sliders.”

That doesn’t mean the game was a cakewalk for the Spartans. Central Kitsap right-hander Josh Flaugher was excellent in his own right, striking out 10 hitters and getting Ritchie twice at the plate with his breaking ball. “Flaugher was a bulldog,” Ritchie said. “He’s very underrated.”

Bainbridge was able to scratch across a couple of runs in the second inning. Jasiah George led off with a walk, and Kai Francis singled, moving George to third. Then the Spartans pulled off a double steal with George swiping home to grab a 1-0 lead.

Angel Maldonado lined a solid two-out base hit to the outfield to score Francis, giving Ritchie all the offense he would need. “That was a true championship game right there,” Brown said.

Bainbridge reached the title game after beating North Kitsap 8-0 earlier in the day. Francis was on the mound for the Spartans in that contest, which featured a home run from Connor Sweeny. Although Ritchie will get the headlines for his performance in the nightcap, it took the whole team to help get him there.

“It’s been a long time coming with this group of guys,” Ritchie said. “It’s not a state championship, but I’m really proud we could take this one.”

Connor Sweeny homered for Bainbridge in the first game of the Olympic League tournament against North Kitsap. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)

Connor Sweeny homered for Bainbridge in the first game of the Olympic League tournament against North Kitsap. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)

More in Sports

South Kitsap forward Maya Foster (8) chases down a loose ball in Tuesday night’s home-opener against Graham-Kapowsin. (Mark Krulish | Kitsap News Group) 
Mark Krulish | Kitsap News Group
South Kitsap forward Maya Foster (8) chases down a loose ball in Tuesday night’s home-opener against Graham-Kapowsin.
South Kitsap snags 4-1 victory in home opener

Wolves prevail despite team experiencing COVID shutdown

South Kitsap quarterback Mason Elena tries to go over a Rogers defender. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)
Football Roundup: Week 3

North Mason at North Kitsap, postponed. This game was postponed due to… Continue reading

Bainbridge’s Jacob Dorsey (45) helps bring down Olympic’s Luke Silva (9) during Friday night’s matchup. The Trojans prevailed 28-24. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)
BHS comeback falls short due to lack of kicking game

The good news from Friday night’s football game is that Bainbridge scored… Continue reading

Bainbridge middle blocker Holley McFadden gets in the way of a Kingston shot during her team’s victory over the Bucs on Thursday. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)
Bainbridge beats Kingston for 3rd consecutive win

Three games, nine sets, all of them have gone Bainbridge’s way. The… Continue reading

Sky Henderson (29) rushes to congratulate teammate Avery Pujolar after scoring her third goal of the game in a 5-0 win over Bremerton. (Mark Krulish/Bainbridge Island Review photos)
Pujolar’s hat trick sparks Bainbridge to victory

Bainbridge sophomore Avery Pujolar was flying down the left sideline at full… Continue reading

South Kitsap junior Anna Harvey drops a shot past the Kingston defense. The Wolves defeated the Bucs three sets to two Monday night. (Mark Krulish/North Kitsap Herald photos)
SK comes back to defeat Kingston in 5 sets

South Kitsap was trailing two sets to one late in the fourth… Continue reading

Josh Smith, along with partner Drake Jones, are the top doubles pair for North Kitsap and led the way in Thursday’s match against Bainbridge, winning 6-0, 6-1. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)
BI wins singles, NK doubles and match

North Kitsap’s seniors are hoping to make the most of their final… Continue reading

Hailey Deese leads the rush upfield during last year’s match against Bremerton. South Kitsap has a number of returners from last spring’s varsity team. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)
Sports previews: South Kitsap

Girls Soccer 2021 record: 8-2-1 Head coach: Hailey Parker Key players: Rosamaria… Continue reading

Colton Bower was a 2A All-State selection in the spring and he leads an experienced North Kitsap team this season. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)
All-State QB leads N. Kitsap this fall

Editor’s note: A preview on Kingston football will run in next week’s… Continue reading

Most Read