MILL CREEK — It was the type of mature pitching performance rarely produced by a high school player.
But for Alec Kisena it was business as usual.
Kisena poured pitches over the plate in a performance that was the picture of efficiency, leading the Jackson Timberwolves to a 3-0 victory over the Snohomish Panthers on Saturday afternoon in the first round of the 4A District 1 tournament.
“I felt pretty good,” said Kisena, who came to the game straight from taking the SAT in the morning. “I was staying in the zone and trying to keep them off balance. The slider wasn’t working too much, so I had to stick with the fastball and locate that.
“That’s usually my thing,” Kisena added about his control. “I don’t like to throw balls, it gets my fielders flat on their feet. So I try to keep them in the game.”
Jackson (12-8), the No. 2 seed from the Wesco South, advanced to take on Wesco North No. 1 Lake Stevens on Tuesday, both for a place in the district title game and a berth to state.
“It’s a great way for us to start,” Jackson coach Kirk Nicholson said. “I’m really happy with our kids. Our kids’ effort has been fantastic. They love baseball, they work hard at it every second, and I’m happy for them.”
Meanwhile Snohomish (11-10), the No. 3 seed from the Wesco North, now faces a difficult road. The Panthers must win four consecutive loser-out games, beginning Tuesday against Wesco South No. 4 Kamiak, to earn a berth to state.
“In 2006 we lost the first game to Kamiak, then came back and won three in a row,” Snohomish coach Kim Hammons said. “We talked about keeping our heads up, playing one game at a time and getting after it, and maybe good things will happen.”
Kisena was in complete command of the strike zone throughout Saturday. The tall right-hander threw 71 pitches in six-plus innings, 53 of those for strikes. Kisena’s only walk was intentional, and he went to a three-ball count just once. He finished with three strikeouts and took a no-hitter into the sixth.
“I thought (Kisena) pitched a really good ballgame,” Hammons said. “He was spotting up, and his two-seamer was moving. We never really hit the ball hard on him in the early innings.”
Sam Brown relieved Kisena in the seventh and got the final three outs, pitching out of a bases-loaded jam to earn the save.
But despite the efforts of Kisena and Brown, the game could easily have gone the other way. Snohomish pitcher Russell Crippen was nearly Kisena’s equal. Crippen, who was able to throw his breaking ball for strikes, pitched a five-hitter, striking out four.
But while the T-wolves played sterling defense behind Kisena, the Panthers committed some crucial errors behind Crippen, and all three of Jackson’s runs were unearned.
“We didn’t necessarily earn it today, to be honest with you,” Nicholson admitted. “If a couple things bounce their way instead of our way, they might have the game instead of us.”
The first of those unearned runs came in the bottom of the fourth inning. Traishawn Patrick yanked a liner into the left-field corner for a one-out double. Patrick then lit out for third on a pitch in the dirt. When the throw to third got into the outfield, Patrick raced home to break a scoreless deadlock.
The T-wolves then padded their lead one inning later. With two out and nobody on, Brown walked. Alek Baumgartner followed by ripping a double to left. Brown rounded third and headed home, but was dead to rights and pulled up in preparation for a rundown. However, the relay throw home skipped to the backstop, allowing Brown to saunter in. Conor Plaisance followed with an RBI single up the middle, making it 3-0.
With the way Kisena was pitching, that seemed more than enough for the T-wolves. However, Snohomish didn’t give up, with the first two batters of the seventh reaching on singles. Nicholson brought in Brown, who got two quick strikeouts. An error on what appeared to be the game-ending grounder loaded the bases. But Brown got another grounder on the next pitch to finish it off.
At Jackson H.S.
Snohomish 000 000 0—0 3 3
Jackson 000 120 0—3 5 2
Russell Crippen and Ben Johnston. Alec Kisena, Sam Brown (7) and Colby Johansen. WP—Kisena. LP—Crippen. 2B—Traishawn Patrick (J), Alek Baumgartner (J). Records—Jackson 12-8. Snohomish 11-10.