Rarely do fans get treated to playoff baseball-type atmosphere at the start of the season, but that’s what happened at Heritage Field on Friday night as Puyallup High hosted South Kitsap.
The last two times these teams met, it was in the Class 4A state championship game nine months ago. And just like the game in May, it was top-ranked Puyallup coming away with an 8-3 victory over the Wolves.
“We want to play the best … we get to the chance to start off against the team we last played,” Puyallup coach Marc Wiese said. “We knew South Kitsap was going to come here tonight and make it tough. It’s a good program and great team — they’re a force to be reckoned with.”
With University of North Carolina signee Brendan Illies (4 1/3 innings, three strikeouts, three ER) taking the mound, South Kitsap (1-1) made it tough on the Vikings senior.
After the Wolves put one on the board in the fourth inning, South Kitsap was able to knock Illies from the game in the fifth after Nathan Archulete’s RBI single increased the lead to 3-0.
“I thought Brendan threw ball pretty good,” Wiese said. “We didn’t make a few plays and just some funky things happened.”
That’s when the Vikings struck back.
With the bases loaded and no outs, South Kitsap start Cooper Canton (4 1/3 IP, four Ks, four ER) couldn’t limit the damage.
“I went up to those guys when we had the three-run deficit and said, ‘Hey, we’re a dirt dog-mentality,” Illies said. “We’re dirt dogs because we never give up.”
After Riley Pletcher’s single cut the lead to 3-2, it was Illies’ time to shine. Illies took a fastball and smacked a two-run single that gave Puyallup (1-0) the lead and ended Canton’s day.
The Vikings weren’t done as they kept adding to their lead in the sixth inning.
With runners at the corners, Illies hammered a two-out double to right-center that brought home both Pletcher and Owen Breithaupt from first to increase Puyallup’s lead to 8-3.
“The last few innings (we) came out and scored eight runs. I couldn’t be happier for the team,” Illies said.
Illies finished 2-for-3 at the plate with four RBIs.
While the loss stings now, it will be a momentary setback for South Kitsap. Wolves coach Marcus Logue knew what he signed his team up for when he made the matchup with Puyallup.
“We set it up exactly how we wanted it to,” Logue said. “They’re a great program … We battled there for a while (but) they had a few balls drop. It was my bad as I left Cooper in there too long. It’s early in the year … we know exactly what we need to work on.”
Leif Strom (2 1/3 IP and three strikeouts) picked up the win in relief for Puyallup.