MUKILTEO — Thrust into a tough spot in the fifth inning, Kamiak senior relief pitcher Marshall Pennock had no room to be a shrinking violet.
Facing a bases-loaded, no-out situation, the right-handed pitcher mowed down the side with three strikeouts and tossed three innings of one-hit baseball as Kamiak tacked on insurance runs late in a 12-6 Western Conference South Division win over Jackson April 14 at Kamiak High School.
Pennock, who had seven strikeouts, two walks and gave up just one hit in relief, came on when Kamiak (7-3 league, 9-3 overall) starting pitcher Jake Bennett surrendered three singles to begin the top half of the fifth inning. With the Knights clinging to an 8-6 lead, Pennock, who is also a starter for head coach Steve Merkley’s squad, bolstered the Knights with his solid pitching just when it appeared that Jackson (7-3, 9-3) was setting up for a big inning.
“I think you just have to have a clear mind. you have to visualize that you know you’re going to get the out,” Pennock said when asked to describe a pitcher’s needed mentality when facing a jam. “I just visualize that I can get the pitches that I want to make and that’s what makes me successful.”
Fittingly, Pennock struck out the final batter to vault Kamiak into a tie for first place in the South with Jackson.
“My fastball had some movement on it,” Pennock said. “I’ve been working hard so it’s nice to see some output.”
Jackson starter Nick Kiel pitched five innings, but the bullpen couldn’t keep the game close for the Timberwolves, who have lost two straight to Kamiak.
The Timberwolves relief pitching struggled to keep the game close, walking six batters and hitting one while surrendering four runs on just one base hit — a Chris Guinn RBI-single in the sixth.
“Sometimes you come in and just don’t throw strikes,” Jackson head coach Kirk Nicholson said. “They’re a pretty good group of hitters so I’m going to give it (credit) more to them than us not getting it done.
“It’s not like our guys aren’t trying to throw strikes, they just didn’t get it done.”
Jackson first baseman Kyle Olson batted 1-for-4 with a three-run home run in the third inning to cut Kamiak’s lead to 4-3. Olson clobbered a 2-0 pitch from Bennett over the high fence in left-center field.
Three consecutive RBI-singles off Bennett tied the contest at 6-6 in the top of the fourth inning, but Kamiak responded with two runs in the bottom half for an 8-6 lead.
Jared Houghtaling, a senior catcher, drove in two runs with a single for Kamiak. Houghtaling finished the game 3-for-3 with three RBI and he was hit by a pitch. The catcher also had an RBI-single in a four-run first inning.
Eric Erlandson (0-for-4, one RBI) executed a perfect squeeze bunt to drive in Matt Stief from third base as part of Kamiak’s two-run third inning.
The Knights offense has started to come to life lately, in addition to a 14-1 win over Jackson on April 13, Merkley said the club is starting to gel and hit its stride.
“Our hitters are coming alive,” Merkley said. “We didn’t hit the ball too well to start (the season), but these last couple of games we’ve scored some runs.”
Eric Hovey, Kamiak’s designated hitter who missed a good chunk of the first part of the season with an injury, batted 1-for-3 with three RBI. Hovey hit a two-run single in the first and earned a bases-loaded walk in the sixth inning.
“It’s nice to see our hitters stepping up and getting hits,” Pennock said. “We’re definitely getting the runs across.”
Mark Nelson writes for The Herald.