Kaiden Hammond walked into the halls of Bonney Lake High School and heard its baseball team had a pitcher who did a lot of good stuff a year ago — like earn league MVP, for one.
So Hammond had a thought.
“I was like, ‘I want to come in here and do all that, too,’” he said.
Hammond is his own breed of ace pitcher — one who doubles as a starting quarterback, defensive end, plays basketball and had his football coach recruiting him to join the track and field team as a thrower. He said he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps as a three-sport athlete.
Hammond came clutch in his toughest outing to date, tossing a complete game with a season-high-tying 10 strikeouts in a 4-2 win on Monday against visiting Wilson, which entered the game unbeaten in 3A Pierce County League play.
Pretty competitive, huh?
“You can just see it,” Bonney Lake baseball coach Mike Olson said with a laugh.
He’s had to shout at Hammond from the dugout sometimes to instruct him to breathe.
“He can be kind of up there in his energy,” Olson said. “Anytime you have that guy, sometimes they can kind of teeter over the edge in their emotions a little bit.”
The win created a three-way tie atop the league standings — with Bonney Lake, Stadium and Wilson. All three schools played in different leagues last year before joining the 3A PCL.
“I think the key was we all came together as a team,” Hammond said. “We wanted that win. We knew this was going to be a good game and we wanted to come out and show that we are a dominant team in this league.”
Wilson led 1-0 on Josh Sinoven’s RBI groundout in the top of the fourth inning. Sinoven, Wilson’s ace, had a strong game against a potent Panthers batting order, allowing five hits and three earned runs in five innings.
But Bonney Lake finally got to him in the bottom of the fourth when Adam Fahsel and Robby Pogue hit back-to-back doubles, with Pogue’s shot bouncing off the wall in right field.
They are Bonney Lake’s 2-3 hitters and both return from the Panthers’ state-tournament trip a year ago when they reached the first round — as did Oregon State commit shortstop Matthew Gretler, the leadoff hitter, and outfielder Tyler McClain, the No. 4 hitter.
But what would they do about graduating 3A SPSL MVP Zac Horne?
Hammond has been a big part of that.
“You don’t replace Zach Horne,” Olson said. “But (Kaiden) has done a great job. We are happy to hand him the ball every couple of days.”
He confused Wilson on Monday with his meticulous mix of fastballs and curveballs, and not being afraid to turn to his breaking pitch even when he was behind in the count.
“He knows how to pitch,” Wilson coach Derek Jennings said. “He kept our guys off balance — a lot of 2-1 curveballs and 3-1 curveballs.”
For Wilson, it had seven seniors graduate after last season, but a lot of returning talent.
The Rams also added catcher Brock Gagliardi, who transferred from Bellarmine Prep. Gagliardi had two hits, including a double, batting third against Bonney Lake. He’s one of two starting seniors.
“It’s definitely a younger group of guys with juniors stepping up and having to be leaders,” said Jennings, the Rams’ second-year coach. “When you have a young team like this, you sometimes have kids who don’t know how to lead yet. But we’re getting there.”