Warming up in the bullpen Saturday night before the Class 4A state championship game, nerves got the better of Kentwood High starting pitcher Avery Kain, and he just couldn’t find his command.
All it took to calm the 6-foot-5 junior’s nerves was a visit to the mound at Safeco Field and to get the first pitch of the game out of the way.
Kain tossed complete-game shutout, throwing 74 pitches and giving up just two hits, and the Kentwood offense came to life as the Conquerors captured their second 4A state title with a 8-0 win over Richland.
“I was having a little trouble out in the bullpen … to say the least,” said Kain, whose first eight pitches in the bullpen missed his warm-up zone. “The first pitch of the game I’m like, ‘OK, here we go.’ Getting that first pitch – I know it’s kind of ridiculous – kind of calmed me down … getting that first strike on that first batter. From then on I knew it was on … I had my stuff.”
Indeed, and a Richland lineup that got just one hit against Shorewood on Friday night struggled to get the ball out of the infield all night Saturday.
“He was hitting his corners well and mixing it up, too,” said Richland center fielder Zach Rapacz, who finished 0-for-3.
That was all part of the game plan, Kentwood coach Jon Aarstad said.
“We talked about that before the game, and I stated that I didn’t think these guys were that offensive,” Aarstad said. “We weren’t going to dance around these guys, and we’re going to go right at them and make them hit us. That’s exactly what (Kain) did. He’s got good stuff.”
Staked to an early 1-0 lead, Kain added to the cushion himself in the bottom of the third inning with the bases loaded, bouncing a double down the left-field line and driving in two runs.
After Taylor White grounded out, Cash McGuire and Matt Bell followed with RBI singles, and Brandon Oak brought home another run with a sacrifice fly, making it 6-0.
After the lead ballooned, Kain grew more confident with every pitch.
“I could relax on the mound a little bit more,” the Washington State-bound hurler said of the six-run cushion.
Richland (20-6) threatened during the top of the sixth, putting runners on first and second with one out, but Kain struck out Josh Rapacz and got Boone Myers to fly out to right to end the inning.
After third baseman Bell gunned out the final Richland batter at first base to end the game, Kentwood players swarmed Kain on the mound.
“That’s the best feeling in the world,” Kain said. “In the beginning of the year, you talk about the dogpile. When it finally happens, you don’t feel anything. It’s just pure bliss.”
Kentwood finished the season 21-3.
Federal Way 11, Shorewood 5 Austin Weber homered twice and drove in four runs, T.J. Horsefall also homered and drove in three runs, and the Eagles (19-6) rebounded from a heartbreaking semifinal loss to Kentwood and claimed third place. Horsefall also earned the victory on the mound, pitching six innings and striking out six.
O’Dea 8, Camas 5: The Fighting Irish scored at least once in innings two through six on the way to winning their second consecutive 3A state title. Shane Smith went 4-for-4 with an inside-the-park home run. O’Dea finished the season 21-8.
Enumclaw 9, Columbia River 1: Kyle Baumgartner and Trenton Disque drove in two runs apiece, and Tyler Carlson homered for the second straight game as Enumclaw (20-7) bounced back from Friday’s loss to O’Dea to claim third place.