Lucas Knowles went from two innings of scoreless relief in a 10 a.m. game Saturday to tossing all seven in the South Kitsap High School baseball team’s 7 p.m. game for the Class 4A West Central District title against Puyallup.
His workload and Mac McCarty’s towering first-inning two-run home run lifted the Wolves in that nightcap to a 3-2 victory over defending state champion Puyallup at Kent Memorial Field in a rematch of last year’s district and state title games — both losses for South Kitsap .
Knowles threw 121 pitches to beat Puyallup after throwing 24 in South Kitsap’s 3-1 win over Kentwood in the district semifinals earlier in the day.
“What a warrior,” McCarty said of Knowles. “Talking to him, he said his arm is a little sore, but he’s just running off adrenaline right now. Just awesome for him. That performance was amazing. That was a thing of beauty.”
South Kitsap will face Skyview in an elimination game in the regional round of the 4A state tournament at 1 p.m. Saturday at Everett Memorial Stadium. Puyallup will play Lake Stevens at 10 a.m. Saturday at Kent Memorial.
Knowles allowed five hits, one earned run, struck out six and walked five against Puyallup. He said he knew he was starting the second game but didn’t know until earlier in the morning that he would also throw in relief against Kentwood.
“I was like, ‘Hey, whenever I can pitch, I’ll pitch,’ ” Knowles said.
Puyallup countered with Griffin Stiffarm, who made his fourth start of the season and first since being hit in the head by a line drive on April 16 against Spanaway Lake.
McCarty, a Washington State University signee, sent the second pitch he saw over the scoreboard behind the left-field wall for a two-run home run — his fifth of the season. McCarty started South Kitsap’s morning win over Kentwood and threw five innings after throwing 119 pitches and seven innings in a 3-0 win over Tahoma on Tuesday.
Puyallup loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh Saturday after Zach Needham doubled and Brendan Illies — who had hit a pair of doubles — was intentionally walked. Knowles struck out Ryan Peterson swinging to end the game.
South Kitsap coach Marcus Logue said they were monitoring Knowles’ pitch count and it was at a point they were comfortable with, especially since he hadn’t pitched in a game this week.
“He was exactly where we needed him based on the amount of time he had had off,” Logue said. “And then they got a whole week to recover. And the nice thing was we didn’t have the Narrows League tournament, so he didn’t have to throw.
“He was fresh, he had a lot of time off, so, yeah, he was fresh. He did fine and he was effective. We didn’t want to throw Mac because they had seen Mac a couple of times and obviously we wanted to go with Mac this morning and get that win out of the way, which we did with Kentwood, and be able to move forward tonight with Lucas. And he was phenomenal.”
That was two years ago when Kentwood reached the state semifinals. But there’s something just as special about this year’s group that clinched the No. 3 seed out of the 4A West Central District tournament with a bounce-back win over the Blazers after falling to South Kitsap earlier in the day.
“Something that (coach Mark) Zender always tells us is that this is one of the most close-knit group of guys he’s ever coached,” said Ciancio, a senior first baseman committed to Seattle University. “But it’s true. We are close and we have fun playing together.”
The Conquerors play Union in an elimination game in the regional round of the 4A state tournament game at 1 p.m. Saturday at Heidelberg Park in Tacoma.
Kentwood is a team full of characters. When Ciancio approaches the plate, his teammates usually follow with impersonations of the seagulls from the Disney movie “Finding Nemo” (only they say “Mike, Mike, Mike” instead of “Mine, Mine, Mine”).
It’s also a team full of hitters. After being held to one run against South Kitsap’s McCarty and Knowles, 10 of Kentwood’s 11 players who batted got a hit against Timberline. Ciancio was 2 for 3 with a double, RBI and a run scored.
“When anyone goes up, we have 100 percent confidence that they are going to get hits,” Ciancio said. “It’s a good offense to be a part of.”
Timberline will face Newport in the regional round at 1 p.m. Saturday at Kent Memorial Park.
But the Tides apparently didn’t think that was enough. They extended their 2-0 lead after two innings to 12-2 after the top of the third. RJ Green was 3 for 4 with three RBIs and three runs scored.
The win came after Gig Harbor eliminated Tahoma with a 5-3 win and Decatur eliminated Todd Beamer, 1-0, in a nine-inning grind-out.
Decatur’s Garrett Westberg was phenomenal in that one. He pitched all nine innings, allowed just one hit and struck out 14 on 120 pitches in that winner-to-state, loser-out game. The Golden Gators won the game when Tyler Swanson doubled in the bottom of the ninth and later scored with two outs on a wild pitch. Beamer’s Taylor Davis went 8 2/3 innings, allowed the one run and struck out 10 on 111 pitches.
McCormick pitched a three-hit shutout, as Central Kitsap took down the top-ranked team in the state and win the Class 3A West Central/Southwest bi-district title.
Now 19-4, the Cougars advance to the regional round of the state playoffs for the first time since 2010, when they were in Class 4A. They will play in the regional at Yelm High School on Saturday.
Auburn Mountainview (21-2-1) will play Garfield in a regional at 10 am. Saturday at Bannerwood Park in Bellevue.
McCormick allowed just three hits, and struck out eight. He gave up a leadoff single to Mason Cerrillo to start the game, but picked him off first base, a sign of things to come.
“He was incredible,” CK coach Bill Baxter said. “He hit his spots, and good velocity. He was always in close and forced contact. He did a good job as any pitcher we had all year.”
McCormick ended his complete game victory by retiring the final 13 batters.