Inconsistent play earlier in the season has forced the Capital baseball team into a new line of thinking as the regular season draws to an end.
“From here on out we need to treat every game like it’s the playoffs,” Cougars coach Jesse Elam said. “That needs to be the mindset of this team.”
Taking down league leader North Thurston is about as solid of a first step toward executing Elam’s vision as one could want.
Caleb Child had three hits, including an RBI triple and Noah Bennett-Chong scored twice to lift visiting Capital to a 4-1 victory over the Rams on Tuesday in a Class 3A Narrows League matchup.
“This is how this team is capable of playing,” Elam said. “I’ve said that all season long. It’s nice to see them go out and match the intensity we needed out of them.”
Capital evens its league record at 5-5 with the victory, placing the Cougars fifth in the standings, a half-game behind Wilson (6-5), with four games remaining.
“Just get in,” Elam said about postseason play. “That’s what we’ve been telling the team. Get in because anything can happen. We’ve coached teams that have sneaked into the playoffs and went pretty far. Just find a way to get in.”
The victory over the Rams keeps Capital in the hunt for a playoff berth as the top five teams from the 3A Narrows League advance to the 3A West Central District 3 tournament, which begins May 9.
The Cougars will host North Thurston in a rematch at 4 p.m. today before playing a home-and-home series against Foss, which remains a playoff threat at 4-7, on Friday and May 4. Capital also has a make-up game against Lincoln remaining on its regular-season slate.
It was just the second league loss for the Rams on the season as they dropped to 9-2 and into a first-place tie with Central Kitsap.
“It’s still right there in front of them,” said North Thurston coach Pete Peppley about his team’s chances at claiming a league crown. “We have three (regular season) games left. The kids know what’s on the line these last few games. Every time they’ve lost this year, they have always responded well.”
After facing Capital, the Rams close out the regular season with a pair of games against Central Kitsap in a series that will likely determine the league championship.
Cody Jenkins picked up the victory, giving up four hits with three strikeouts over seven innings.
Jenkins kept North Thurston scoreless until the sixth inning when Mike Cole drove in Noah Murski to cut the Rams deficit to 3-1.
“I thought we hit the ball hard today,” Peppley said. “Unfortunately, we just hit everything right to them. (Capital) was able to come up with some big hits when they needed to. That was really the difference. It was just a well-played game on both sides.”
The Cougars opened up the scoring in the fourth on a Child single before upping their lead to 3-0 with a pair of runs in the sixth.
Mike Dooley hit a lead-off double for Capital in the seventh and later scored on a North Thurston fielding error to produce the final score.
Dooley finished 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles and a run scored. Bennett-Chong also added a double, while Child went 3 for 3 at the plate.
Cole and Ben Rood each had two hits and teammate Thomas Reay had a second-inning double for the Rams.