Jackson loses to Chargers

  • David Pan<br>Enterprise sports editor
  • Thursday, February 28, 2008 10:48am

TACOMA — Jackson coach Kirk Nicholson’s message to his players after falling 12-4 to Kentridge in a loser-out Class 4A regional baseball game was clear: one defeat does not diminish what the Timberwolves accomplished in 2003.

“Where we came from before now was something I think was pretty special,” Nicholson said.

At the start of the season, Nicholson projected that only two seniors — Jason Morris and Cam Myers — would be in the starting lineup. And when Jackson took the field against the Chargers in the first round of the state playoffs, the lone senior starters were Morris and Myers.

The young but talented Jackson team, which included a sophomore and two freshmen starters, experienced some growing pains early in the season but hit its stride late in the year, winning nine out of its last 10 games to finish third in the Western Conference 4A South Division.

The Timberwolves (16-8 overall) then opened the Northwest District 4A tournament with a pair of memorable victories over Marysville-Pilchuck and division champion Kamiak.

“The first two games in our district playoffs were incredible,” Nicholson said.

Jackson defeated Marysville-Pilchuck 21-14 in a first-round game and then knocked off Kamiak 5-3 in a semifinal game that few people probably thought the Wolfpack would be able to pull out.

“The big thing is you come back and beat Kamiak, who is a wonderful team,” Nicholson said. “I believe they have five guys on the all-league team. Their three pitchers all throw it in the upper 80s and 90s. You win that game. That’s a huge win for a program.

“I’m not going to forget those things just because of today.”

Jackson was unable to extend its postseason run in large part due to the efforts of Kentridge senior pitcher Kevin Corrigan, who after a rocky first inning was able to keep the Timberwolves in check for the rest of the game.

Corrigan, who had only four strikeouts, didn’t overpower the Wolfpack but was able to get the outs when he needed them.

“It was one of those days where we weren’t hitting together as a team,” said Morris, who was 3-for-4.

The Timberwolves made contact with the ball.

“We hit the ball right at people,” said junior catcher Kiel Lillibridge said. “They made the plays. Their pitcher pitched pretty good.”

Jackson jumped on Corrigan early but was only able to push across one run in the top of the first. Lillibridge drew a leadoff walk and then headed to the dugout when Matt McEachran came in as a courtesy runner. McEachran then moved to second on single to right field by Morris. Junior pitcher Pat Allen singled up the middle to drive in McEachran.

A soft grounder back to Corrigan resulted in a force out at second and then an out at home when the runner tried to score from third. The fifth batter of the inning flied out to center field to end the scoring threat.

The Wolfpack’s lead didn’t last long as Allen was hammered in the bottom of the first. Kentridge sent 10 batters to the plate and ended up scoring five runs on four hits. Allen didn’t help the Jackson cause by hitting a batter to force in a run and then walking another batter to force in another run.

“They played a great ball game against us,” Nicholson said. “They swung the bat. They ran the bases well. They did things right. We didn’t get it done … I’m not going to say because of what we did is the reason we lost. I’m going to say the other team did what they needed to do.”

The Chargers took a 6-1 lead in the second on a sacrifice fly by Corrigan that scored Danny Hass, who had tripled to right field.

Jackson’s Lillibridge and Morris led off the third inning with consecutive singles but Corrigan again retired the next three batters to escape the inning with no damage.

The Timberwolves finally got to Corrigan in the fourth due to a throwing error by the pitcher. Freshman first baseman Travis Snider drew a one-out walk. Freshman second baseman Curtis Nelson then hit a grounder back to Corrigan, who promptly threw the ball into center field while trying to get the force out at second.

Sophomore third baseman Cris Bowen then hit a single to left field to score Snider and Nelson to cut the lead to 6-3.

Junior Matt Raff replaced Allen and didn’t fare any better than his predecessor. Kentridge sent eight players to the plate, scoring a pair of runs on three hits to increase its lead to 8-3.

The Chargers added four more runs in the sixth with the big blow being a three-run triple by Andrew Thiesen.

In the seventh, Morris hit a two-out infield single and scored on a triple to right field by Allen.

“We started out the game slow,” Morris said. “We just never got to pick it back up.”

Nicholson and his players see a bright future for the Wolfpack with so many players returning and the experience of playing in the regional tournament can only help.

“They (freshmen) have all seen the state tournament,” Morris said. “Now they know what it’s like, so they should expect to come next year and make a better run.”

Lillibridge can’t wait for next year.

“We’ll be solid,” he said. “We should be a pretty good contender.”

The end of the season was somewhat melancholy for Nicholson, who will miss his senior class.

“Cam Myers … it’s tough to not see him again,” Nicholson said. “Jason Morris has given me some great years. I’ll miss those guys.”

Even though Jackson will have the majority of its team back, Nicholson cautioned that it doesn’t automatically translate results similar to this season.

“When you look at our team we obviously (have) some youth,” he said. “We’re going to come back with the bulk of our people next year. It doesn’t mean that you go far as you go this year. I told these guys ‘We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us to get better,’ because obviously we’re not good enough yet and we need to get better.

“Some year I’d like to not end it this way. Maybe some year with these group we can do that.”

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