The plan was to stay in the strike zone and keep the ball low, working it inside and outside.
Jordan Jones, catcher Shane McGuire and Kentwood High School’s pitching coach Dan Sijer rehashed it before the game. Then Jones executed.
The junior right hander pitched a shutout, allowing four hits and striking out 10 batters on 88 pitches and the Conquerors got a sixth-inning bases-loaded triple from shortstop Kramer Sims to beat Rogers, 4-0, in the Class 4A West Central District tournament Tuesday at Heritage Park in Puyallup.
The win gives Kentwood an automatic berth into the 4A regional round of the state tournament — the Conquerors’ sixth trip to state in the past seven years. Kentwood plays South Kitsap in the district semifinals at 10 a.m. Saturday at Kent Memorial Park.
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“I was just going through it like it was another game, pitching the game I love with all the teammates I love,” said Jones, who is committed to the University of Washington.
His mother was watching from the stands while also watching Jordan’s older brother, Taylor, on her tablet. Taylor Jones is a first baseman and No. 3 hitter for Gonzaga, which was playing Oregon.
Kentwood coach Mark Zender said Jones didn’t even have his best stuff. But it wasn’t because of the recent hamstring injury Jones suffered — though that’s why Zender didn’t have him batting.
“He didn’t have his off-speed pitches at his disposal like he normally does,” Zender said. “So he was just changing speeds on his fastball and locating it well.”
Rogers senior John Bjerk was pitching just as well until he walked the first two batters in the bottom of the sixth inning. So Rams coach Matt Whitehead replaced him with Matt Hefty.
Kentwood’s Cory Wabinga singled to load the bases and Sims followed with a shot over the head of Rogers center fielder Chris Chandler. The ball rolled to the wall and Sims slid into third with a triple, giving the Conks a 3-0 lead.
Rogers’ Troy Johnston led off the top of the seventh with a double, but Jones then struck out the next three batters to end the game.
“Not only could (Jones) throw hard, but he was hitting his spots, too,” Whitehead said. “Plus he’s a competitor and he’s done this. He’s a bulldog out there.”
Whitehead said that Jake Talbot will start Wednesday’s elimination game for Rogers against Gig Harbor.
Gig Harbor 4, Curtis 0: Tides left-hander Matthew Henckel was about as stoic as one can be after the final out of the seventh was recorded to cap his shutout.
“I was really comfortable, but obviously I was pretty happy for the team,” the University of Oregon commit said. “This was a game that we needed to win.”
Henckel allowed just three hits and struck out six in seven innings. He retired 15 of 16 batters to end the game.
The loss eliminated Curtis, which came off its first postseason win in eight years after defeating Graham-Kapowsin, 6-2, in the SPSL tournament last week.
The Vikings (14-11) had gone 5-15 each of the past two years before this season’s resurgance highlighted by a 3-2 win over Puyallup on April 13. That is Puyallup’s lone 4A SPSL South loss in the past two years.
“We let our underclassmen know that our seniors have taken this program from the muck and the nonsense of ineligibility and all this stuff to get to where 12 to 15 wins should be in our minds as something we should do every year,” coach Bryon Robinson said.
South Kitsap 3, Tahoma 0: Mac McCarty joined the 4A WCD pitching party, tossing a shutout for the Wolves. Only two of the eight teams to win did Tuesday did not have its starting pitcher throw a shutout (Kentlake and Yelm).
McCarty, a senior submarine pitcher and Washington State University commit, allowed four hits and struck out 13 batters in seven innings to lift South Kitsap to a state berth.
Tahoma falls to the consolation bracket where it will play Kentlake in an elimination game at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Heritage Park.
Kentlake 4, Federal Way 2: After losing to the Eagles in the SPSL tournament last week, the Falcons came back to win Tuesday to stave off elimination.