High School Sports

Unlikely no more: Gerarden homers to send Kentlake to semifinals

His players asked Kentlake High School baseball coach Brett Jaime to provide the motto for the day. Jaime was in California for a funeral, but he sent a video message just before the Falcons’ first game.

“The motto fellas: You see (Seahawks safety) Kam Chancellor bring the hammer,” Jaime said. “Bring the hammer all day long.”

J.J. Gerarden did.

Gerarden jumped on a 1-0 pitch to break a tie in the bottom of the fifth inning . It sparked Kentlake’s 9-5 victory against Sumner on Saturday at Heritage Park in Puyallup to clinch a spot in the state semifinals for the second time in school history and first since 2008.

“This is going to stay with me for the rest of my life,” said Gerarden, a sophomore who had hit one other home run this season.

And in a year that continues to be big for the Kent schools, it will be an all-Kent semifinal with the Falcons facing Kentwood at

1 p.m. Friday at the home of the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field in Seattle.

Jaime was attending a funeral for a family member.

“We wanted to make sure Brett could coach us at Safeco,” Chavez said.

Sumner jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning, riding high off of an 8-3 win over Lake Stevens earlier in the day.

But Kentlake answered with four runs in the bottom half of the inning, which included an RBI single from Gerarden, who finished 2-for-3 on the day.

Sumner tied it up 4-4 in the top of the second on Ben Wilson’s RBI single. Wilson, who is also an all-state linebacker with scholarship offers from nine Pac-12 schools including Washington and Washington State, finished 2-for-3 as the Spartans’ No. 3 hitter.

But Gerarden’s two-run, two-out blast in the fifth was the dagger. Both runs were unearned because Caleb Jaime, who is Brett Jaime’s nephew, reached on an error to start the inning.

The Spartans committed three errors, which cost them their chance to return to the state semifinals after reaching the 3A Final Four last season.

“To be honest, when we’ve lost that’s been the story,” Sumner coach Casey Adcox said of the Spartans’ defensive struggles. “They knew they didn’t play well. … Regional Saturday is a brutal thing. The best you can do is be loose and confident and hope the ball bounces your way a couple of times.”

Heath Dempsey filled in for Jaime as Kentlake’s manager. Dempsey played for Jaime at Rogers in 2012.

“All year we were kind of doubted,” Dempsey said. “We tried to pound into their brain that they were a lot better than they thought they were.”

Senior center fielder Jayke Chavez and teammates were chanting in a left-field huddle after the game: “Unlikely Kentlake! Unlikely Kentlake!”

The Falcons weren’t predicted to win the Cascade Division of the 4A North Puget Sound League, much less reach the state semifinals. An article in The News Tribune earlier this season had “Unlikely Kentlake” in the headline.

“We kept that in our mind — ‘Unlikely Kentlake’,” Chavez said. “We want to be likely. We are here and we are something to deal with.

“I knew from the get-go that we were going to be a tough team to compete with and we were going to have our moments. I had no doubt in my mind that we were going to be here. From the first moment we stepped on the field at practice I knew, this is our year.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677

@TJCotterill

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