A seventh-inning rally fell flat as the South Whidbey baseball team lost its season opener 5-4 to North Kitsap on Monday.
The Vikings relied on patient at-bats and a tight strike zone to rack up 12 walks and eight hits.
“Kind of a miracle or testament to the defense we have to give up 12 walks and still be in the game,” Falcon head coach Tom Fallon said.
“I’ve never seen a team take that many pitches,” he added.
North Kitsap took a 2-0 lead in the third inning with a two RBI single by Tyler Trainer. He ripped a grounder through the left side of the drawn-in infield with runners on second and third base. Both Vikings players reached base on walks by senior pitcher Mo Hamsa, who relieved junior starter Charlie Patterson in the third.
South Whidbey, which reached the state 1A tournament in 2014, struggled to score early in the game. In the second inning, the Falcons had two base runners in scoring position after a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Will Simms. A fly out and groundout stranded both of them and ended the inning.
“Just scoring one run that inning changes the complexion of the game,” Fallon said.
North Kitsap cobbled together enough runs to pad its lead heading into the final inning, while South Whidbey scratched its way to one run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by sophomore Josiah Colby and another run in the fifth by junior Ricky Muzzy who scored on an errant throw to third as he stole the base.
“Once again we had the tying run at the plate,” Fallon said. “We were down three (runs) going into the last inning; we scored with runners on.”
Both South Whidbey and North Kitsap tallied eight hits. The Falcons had four walks, while the Vikings had 12.
“They’re a quality squad,” Fallon said of North Kitsap. “They play a lot of baseball obviously. They play a little differently than teams we’ve seen.”
Play dragged on early because of the pitch count and questions raised by the coaches. North Kitsap called on the umpires to make Hamsa come set on the mound before throwing, which was eventually called for a balk in the third inning. The umpire, said Fallon, later questioned one of South Whidbey’s helmets before inspecting all of their equipment in the midst of the game. The sun had nearly set by the time the game ended, Fallon said.
South Whidbey hosts Cedarcrest, which boasts a pitcher who throws in the 90-mph range, on Wednesday for the Falcons’ first Cascade Conference game.
In earlier action, South Whidbey kicked off its season with a preseason jamboree against Kamiak and Oak Harbor on Saturday. The Falcons used the opportunity to test their pitchers with an inning each, and the result portended ill things for the North Kitsap game.
South Whidbey gave up plenty of walks in the jamboree, said Fallon, but found that its hitters were plenty capable of putting the ball in play.
“We can hit the ball,” he said.
“Even the Kamiak coach said, ‘Boy your guys sure can swing the bat well,’” he added.
South Whidbey has three sophomores as first-time varsity starters, including Simms, Colby and Connor Antich.