POULSBO — Close games give teams a chance to show their true colors.
If a squad can win those kinds of contests early in the season, it will undoubtedly pay off down the road when stakes are the highest — during the postseason.
The North Kitsap Vikings baseball team showed what it’s made of Friday afternoon, displaying resiliency and composure in a dramatic 2-1 comeback victory over the then-unbeaten Stadium Tigers.
“It was a great high school baseball game,” Vikings’ head coach Jeff Weible said of the contest which placed North at the top of Narrows League standings with a 7-1 record.
North’s dynamic pitching duo of Jordan Tucker and Jamaal Smith played a big role in the win. The Vikings shutdown Stadium’s typically potent offensive attack, holding the Tigers to one hit for the game.
Tucker, who took the mound as the starter, allowed just one run in five innings of work. Smith tossed a shutout in two innings as the closer, helping the Vikings nab their seventh victory of the 2007 season.
“Pitching has been a strength for us this year. I was glad to see Tucker throw a good game. Jamaal came in with that closer mentality and threw hard for us,” Weible said. “To one-hit a team like that is great. They’re a good team.”
While the Vikings’ pitching was proficient throughout the game, the NK bats didn’t come alive until the bottom of the fourth inning. Kramer Uvila got NK’s offensive attack rolling, ripping a double down the left field line and advancing catcher Joe Benish to third base.
Weible then decided to insert Taylor Zehrung into the lineup as a pinch runner for Benish.
The move paid off as Tiger Cody Goodfellow’s pitch got past catcher Tony Rossetto’s outstretched glove. As the ball rolled toward the backstop, Zehrung made a beeline for homeplate.
He slid safely in for the run, tying the game at one apiece.
With the score still knotted at 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, NK’s Jesse Cummings smashed a double deep into right center field that the Tigers couldn’t track down. Immediately following that clutch at bat, Weible inserted another pinch runner, Robert Jordan, into the lineup, replacing Cummings. With two outs in the inning, Jordan reached third off of a Uvila line drive single.
And the stage was set for an unlikely finish.
Stadium’s catcher Rossetto let another ball roll past him, allowing Jordan to score and giving the Vikings a 2-1 lead.
In the top of the seventh, Smith forced three Stadium batters to ground out, preserving the victory.
Weible made gutty coaching calls in the contest that paid dividends for the win.
“I like carrying more guys on my team than most coaches so I can do that right there,” Weible said. “We have a lot of guys on the bench with speed.”
But even though the Vikings pulled out the victory, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. The Vikings had four errors in the field behind Tucker and Smith.