The last time the Kentwood High Conquerors took the field at Puyallup’s Heritage Park was not one they wanted to remember.
Kentwood rebounded from an eight-inning loss to Puyallup in last week’s South Puget Sound League crossover tournament, handing Gig Harbor an 11-0 loss Tuesday in the opening round of the Class 4A West Central/Southwest bi-district baseball tournament.
The star for the Conquerors was senior Taylor Jones, who’s bound for Gonzaga University this fall. Jones dominated the Tides, striking out nine and allowing two hits in a complete game.
Jones also sparked the offense, going 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI as Kentwood (21-1) advanced to Saturday’s district semifinals.
“I felt good,” Jones said. “My first playoff game, when it really counts, you get that playoff intensity, and us losing to Puyallup that last game really fired us up.”
Kentwood got to Tides starter Steven Daily early, using a two-out rally to go up 1-0 in the first inning. Lucas Gately’s single to left scored Reese McGuire.
The Conquerors got two more men on base in the second, but Skyler Genger lined into a double play.
“We’re a good-hitting team, and in the second inning we were ready to break it open,” Kentwood coach Mark Zender said. “But we didn’t get upset. We felt like, at that point, the dam was going to break essentially, as long as we kept the pressure on.”
Zender’s thoughts were prophetic as the Conquerors sent 13 batters to the plate in the third and scored nine times. Jones had two RBI-hits in the inning, and the Tides committed four of their five errors.
“The third inning, they probably had eight outs,” Gig Harbor coach Pete Jansen said. “And you give a good team like that eight outs, they’re going to score a lot of runs.
“Steven was out there probably a half-hour, and should’ve been done a lot sooner. They hit the ball well. Maybe they should’ve gotten three runs that inning.”
Jones was a reliever for Kentwood’s 2010 state championship team, and he said he thinks the Conquerors have the pieces to make a run at another title.
“We’ve got the firepower to do it,” he said. “There’s going to be great teams out here. We’re going to have to battle, but if we play the way we’re capable of, we’re going to be hard to stop.”
Gig Harbor (14-6) returns to Heritage Park at 4 p.m. today to play Auburn Riverside in a loser-out contest. The Ravens were 8-5 winners over Evergreen of Vancouver on Tuesday.
Jansen said his top pitcher, Nick Gagliardi, didn’t start against Kentwood because of a sore shoulder and won’t play today.
Gig Harbor will have to minimize its mistakes to keep the Tides’ season alive, Jansen said
“Our defense was very suspect today; we made a lot of errors,” he said. “We had a lot of strikeouts today, and they outplayed us easily.”