Puyallup cruises to 3rd straight SPSL title

todd.milles@thenewstribune.comMay 11, 2014 

When the old Prince tune “Purple Rain” hits the loudspeakers at Heritage Field, it means only one thing.

Another Puyallup High School baseball victory.

And now those wins start to mean a lot more, starting with the one for the 4A South Puget Sound League championship.

Three big innings, starting with a four-run third, got the No. 1 Vikings rolling to a surprisingly easy 12-0 victory against Kentridge on Saturday afternoon.

The game was called after five innings because of the WIAA’s “mercy rule.” It was the Vikings’ third consecutive SPSL crown, with wins the past two years against Kentwood.

Puyallup (21-0) will take on 4A Narrows League runner-up Gig Harbor in the opening round of the West Central/Southwest bidistrict tournament Tuesday at Art Wright Field in Kent. The Chargers (14-6) face Battle Ground at Kent’s Russell Road Park.

Owen Breithaupt, Brendan Illies and Tyler McDowell drove in two runs apiece to back starting pitcher Jacob Hegland’s three strong innings for the Vikings.

McDowell’s two-out, two-run single to right field in the third inning gave the Vikings a 4-0 lead.

“Just knowing we were up in the first couple innings was a huge deal,” McDowell said. “Getting that hit, it was a team thing, because I couldn’t do it if there weren’t guys on.”

The start was a stark contrast to the way the SPSL title game began Thursday. Isaiah Terry hit a solo home run, and the Chargers were up, 3-1, when the game was called in the third inning because of rain.

“I think it was tough to get up (emotionally) twice,” Kentridge coach John Flanigan said. “We were up and ready to roll on Thursday.”

Because the rain Thursday killed off the game entirely, both squads had to wait until Saturday — just three days before the start of districts — to finally start over.

With it, the importance of winning the league crown became less of a priority. Self-preservation, and making sure the teams’ top pitchers were ready for next week, became the primary focus.

“Getting backed up affected the game,” Puyallup coach Marc Wiese said. “Both teams were set up to throw numerous guys … so we didn’t have to play the (top two) pitchers.”

Kentridge loaded the bases in the first inning, but Hegland escaped when he got Shane Stober to fly out to center field for the final out.

After that, the Chargers couldn’t muster a scoring threat.

“I thought they would come out pumped since they had the lead against us that day,” McDowell said. “It was good for us because we felt like underdogs for the first time.”

After breaking out to a 4-0 lead, Puyallup tacked on three more runs in the fourth inning on RBI singles from Breithaupt, Levi Jordan and Illies.

And Kentridge’s back-to-back walks of McDowell and Zach Needham to start the fifth inning opened the floodgates — five more Vikings runs.

“The vibe was just different from Thursday,” McDowell said.

todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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