SK season ends with heartbreaking playoff loss

Playoff baseball sure looked good on Port Orchard dirt May 7, an exclamation point on a season where South Kitsap defied just about every preseason expectations by returning to districts.

But the Wolves first home playoff contest in over 20 years ended with a loss. A bad hop on an eighth inning ground ball brought home the go-ahead run for the visiting Kentwood Conquerors, who would take the 4-3 victory after a scoreless bottom half of the inning.

The Wolves had their chances early on, ultimately stranding runners on second and third with just one out in the first inning and losing a baserunner on a pickoff to second base in the second. Traffic left on the basepaths became one of the downfalls of Nick Kenyon’s young squad. “We didn’t get the big hit or somebody stepping up and being the dude,” he said. “There were multiple opportunities throughout the game that we just did not take advantage of the situation.”

Still, for seven innings, the Wolves returned punches with blows of their own. After giving up runs on an RBI squeeze bunt and RBI single in the top of the second, a base hit by Randall McGaugh and a walk to Mason Williams gave the Wolves life. Koichi Castro brought them both home, smacking a two-RBI single into the outfield grass.

The Conquerors retook the lead in the fourth on an RBI groundout, but once again, the Wolves matched it. McGaugh, who had doubled earlier in the inning, raced to home plate once again after an error on a grounder by Williams.

With the score knotted at 3-3, innings five, six and seven finished scoreless, despite each team having opportunities. The most dire against the Wolves came in the top of the seventh after a two-out single and double put runners at second and third. South Kitsap called on Kadyn Jones to rescue the team from the jam, a move that paid off with an electrifying strikeout. Jones left the mound pumping his fist so hard that his hat jumped off his head.

“I thought, after something like that, we were going to sit in the bottom of the seventh and score one right there,” Kenyon said. “It just didn’t work out that way.”

Despite the loss, Kenyon’s message to his team in the post-game was not one of what could have been, yet one of what had been achieved. “Nobody thought you guys would be the six seed in the SPSL,” he said. “No one thought you would be .500 in our league. You’ve got to look at everything that you’ve accomplished this year and just keep your chins up, setting the foundation for what’s going to happen yearly from this point.”

McGaugh, taking the advice of his coach, did his best to keep his chin up as he said goodbye to his baseball home. “(The team) feels like family to me,” he said. “I’ve played with a lot of these guys since I was eight, nine, years old. It’s been second home, second nature to me.”

He expects to make trips back to see how the team does in future seasons. McGaugh said he hopes to see Kenyon take the program to new heights. “Nobody deserves this job more than he does.”

SK’s Mason Williams gears up for a throw to first base in the second inning of a district playoff game against Kentwood.

SK’s Mason Williams gears up for a throw to first base in the second inning of a district playoff game against Kentwood.