Mount Rainier High School’s baseball coach is among the surprised observers of this division’s inaugural champions.
In a league of annual postseason stalwarts Kentwood, Kentridge and Tahoma and with Kennedy Catholic and Hazen joining from the Seamount League, did he suspect Kentlake might be the 4A North Puget Sound League Cascade division champion?
“No, obviously not,” Mount Rainier coach Bob Odegard said.
But here the Falcons are.
They secured the top seed from the division to the NPSL tournament – all with a game to spare – because of their 4-2 victory on Wednesday against Mount Rainier.
“It’s no surprise for us,” Kentlake centerfielder Jayke Chavez said. “But we felt like we were the underdogs, and we had a chip on our shoulder.
“Nobody really talks about Kentlake in the NPSL. Now to put them on the map, win one title and maybe next year win another one.”
So what makes these Falcons fly?
Start with pitching and defense.
Their title-clinching win over Mount Rainier was a snap shot. Kentlake has held its opponents to two runs or fewer in seven of its 12 victories.
And Kentlake has two starters it trusts in any situation in right-handers Jordon Wright and Caleb Jaime. They’ve combined to pitch 57 2/3 innings and have allowed a combined 15 earned runs. Jaime has an ERA of 1.77 and Wright’s is 1.70.
Jaime allowed two runs in five innings against the Rams on Wednesday. His uncle is coach Brett Jaime.
“I don’t think we have an ace,” Brett Jamie said. “I think we have two aces.”
And that’s typically a recipe (along with timely hitting and a few trusty bullpen options) for postseason success, too.
Though if they had their way, Caleb Jaime and Wright would probably be playing alongside each other at third base and shortstop, like they did the final two innings of Wednesday’s game when Dylan Mackie, who has missed most of the season with an arm injury, came in to close.
“Me and Jordon have a good relationship,” Caleb Jaime said. “We always make each other work hard, we pick each other up. Jordon is a work horse. He comes out here and plays hard every single time. I just try to match him and see what I can do.
“But I got to hand it to my defense. They make every play that’s out there.”
Neither blow hitters away with their pitching arsenal — they both stick to fastballs, curveballs and changeups for the most part. But they have a quality that makes up for it.
“They are competitors,” Brett Jamie said. “If you asked either one they would probably say they are hitters and fielder’s first. But when they are on the mound, they both compete and they are going to battle and that’s what I like about them.”
Caleb Jaime is one of Kentlake’s captains and has slid into any position called upon – whether that be pitching, third base, catcher or sliding into the outfield.
Against Mount Rainier, he started the scoring when he batted after Wright, the leadoff hitter, and smacked a double over the head of Rams centerfielder Kalib Johnson. Shane Nagel scored him with a double of his own before Chavez scored him with a double to make it 3-0.
Caleb Jaime’s next at-bat? He dropped a perfect bunt down the third-base line with runners at first and second and all runners were safe on the play.
He signed his letter of intent to play at The Master’s University in Santa Clara, California. That’s where his father, Tony Jaime Jr., played and his coach, Brett Jaime, played. Both were catchers.
“That’s probably his best position, but Kyle (Combs) has done a great job back there,” said Brett Jaime, who graduated from Kentlake in 2001. “Caleb … his strength is he’s not going to make an excuse about what position he’s playing or what role he’s in. He has the confidence to go out there and get it done.”
“It’s been fun. I’ve coached him a lot of years. To see him grow over the years is enjoyable. But we’ve got a lot of leaders. He’s one of them.”
And Brett Jaime has found it even more enjoyable running through the 4A NPSL Cascade to the division title. The NPSL playoffs begin Tuesday when Kentlake would play for the No. 1 seed from the league to the district playoffs, which begin May 9.
“We’re just one big family,” Chavez said. “We just have each others’ backs, we have great energy and we’re a big family.
So what has allowed Kentlake to stun this league.
Let Chavez sum it up.
“We just work hard and bust our butts,” he said. “That’s what we gotta do.”
Said Brett Jaime: "I’ve been happy with the brand of baseball we’ve been playing and the way we win games. It’s not like we send two guys out there who throw 90 (mph) and a lineup of D1s who are going to crush the ball, But we got really one through 12 in our lineup who consistently play at a high level."
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677