TACOMA – In choosing his starting pitcher for Saturday’s Narrows League baseball championship game, Olympia coach Todd McDougall played a hunch.
He’d start Tanner Justin, a slender sidearm thrower who made one start last year. It couldn’t have been a better choice.
The senior pitcher threw a three-hit shutout, striking out five as Olympia defeated South Kitsap, 12-0, at Heidelberg Park, with the game ending after five innings because of the 10-run mercy rule. It’s the second straight year that Olympia has defeated the Wolves for the championship.
“Tanner looked sharp Thursday in our last game, and he hasn’t thrown against South Kitsap,” McDougall said. “So, I went with him, not Willie Willard. It turned out to be a pretty good decision.”
Justin didn’t allow a hit until the third inning. He walked three — two in the first inning.
“After that first single, I put my fingers up on the ball more to keep it down in the strike zone,” Justin said. “My slider had a little more movement than usual.”
Olympia blew open the game in the second inning. The Bears pushed across 10 runs, sending 13 batters to the plate. Drew Schultz belted a fastball over the fence in left-center field for a three-run home run to highlight the scoring outburst. It was Schultz’ second homer of the season.
“I thought it was going to bounce off the wall,” Schultz said. “I was just trying to get a single and keep the inning going.”
Schultz had singled in his first at-bat of the inning.
Olympia, with only two returning starters, continued to be the surprise of the league. The Bears improved to 18-2 overall.
“No one was expecting us to do much,” Schultz said. “We wanted to prove everyone wrong.
“This win means a lot. Now, we’re going to be a higher seed going into districts.”
With the Bears having beaten South Kitsap only 4-0 earlier in the season, McDougall wasn’t anticipating a blowout win this time.
“I feel like we played well in all phases of the game,” McDougall said. “We played good defense. We swung the bats well. We ran the bases well. Tanner pitched great. It was a great game.”
Olympia has now outscored South Kitsap 16-0 in two games this season.
Justin struck out the game’s final batter to pick up his fifth win.
“Tanner had control of his fastball and his slider,” Olympia catcher Quinn Batt said. “His slider was his strikeout pitch.
South Kitsap committed three errors during Olympia’s 10-run second inning. The Bears had six hits in the inning.
“I don’t ever try to forget stuff like this,” South Kitsap coach Jim Fairweather said. “We’ve got to build on this. There’s no way we can forget this.”
Olympia scored its first run when Carter Manning raced home from third base on a wild pitch in the first inning. Manning slid under the tag, giving the Bears a 1-0 lead. In the second inning, Manning, Schultz, Willard and Chris Womac all hit RBI singles.
“Olympia makes you pay for your mistakes,” Fairweather said. “That’s what a champion does.”
With the win, Olympia earned the Narrows League’s top seed into the district tournament, which will begin Saturday. Olympia will play either Kentwood or Emerald Ridge at 11 a.m. Saturday at Heidelberg Park.
South Kitsap, which dropped to 14-5, will play either Tahoma or Puyallup at 11 a.m. Saturday at Heritage in Puyallup.
Gail Wood: 360-754-5443