Gig Harbor High School baseball coach Pete Jansen reminded Michael Toglia to be the ideal leadoff hitter — even if the 6-foot-4 senior isn’t what you would picture in that role.
But Toglia, a UCLA signee, walked four times in four at-bats. So that was certainly ideal.
And the bats behind him did their jobs, producing enough to lift the Tides to a 5-4 victory over visiting South Kitsap on Tuesday in a battle of two teams that reached the championship semifinals of the Class 4A state tournament last season.
This is just what Jansen did in 1997, when he asked his top hitter, Tim Friedman, to bat leadoff instead of third. Gig Harbor went on to eventually win its only state title in school history.
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“I get to help my team out,” Toglia said. “Maybe steal a couple of bases.”
His first day batting leadoff came Monday in a 5-0 victory over Bellarmine Prep. Toglia opened the game with a leadoff home run and got some help from Alex Harrison to pitch a combined no-hitter.
“He asked me after the game, ‘Hey Coach, do I get to lead off again?’ ” Jansen said. “He seemed pretty excited. We are experimenting still.”
Colton Robinson tied the game in the bottom of the first inning with a double to score Toglia and Jon Burghardt, a Washington State commit, followed one batter later with a two-RBI double.
South Kitsap tied it back up at 4-all in the top of the fifth inning when Dustin Garcia got himself out of a rundown between third and home. Austin Hackman hit a grounder to third baseman Colton Robinson, who threw to catcher Jon Burghardt as Garcia headed for home.
Garcia cut back for third, and Burghardt’s throw to shortstop Chad Stephens got by him while Garcia bolted for the plate to tie the game.
It would stay tied until the bottom of the sixth. Toglia walked for the fourth time in four at-bats to put runners at first and second for Cameron MacIntosh, who lined a single to center field to score pinch runner Neal Hassan.
South Kitsap’s loss comes a day after the defending 4A state champions lost to Olympia on a walkoff single in its 4A Narrows opener. The Wolves (3-3, 0-2 4A Narrows) play Olympia again on Wednesday.
“We aren’t going to learn anything from getting down on ourselves,” South Kitsap coach Marcus Logue said. “A game like this — it’s more about teaching a lesson. It’s so early. We go 1-0 tomorrow and we’re 1-2. Everybody on the outside will want to say, ‘Oh, you started the league season 0-2.’ But we get a win and we’re right there.”
As for the Toglia leadoff experience, he got to get a few more swings in after the game, anyway, when former major leaguer Scott Hatteberg, a Gig Harbor resident, tossed him and Burghardt pitches in front of some major league scouts.
“With all the talent that we have on this team, it’s more about how we play with each other,” Toglia said. “We’ve all known each other since we were five years old, so just continuing to come together as a team has been the biggest thing.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677