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North Kitsap Vikings reflect on what sparkled on the diamond
POULSBO — It ended sooner than expected, but North Kitsap’s 2010 baseball season was one to remember.
The Vikings started the season with 17 straight wins and notched their second Olympic League title in two years. But they finished 2010 on a four-game skid, losing to Port Angeles and Kingston to end the regular season, and then to Enumclaw on Tuesday and Sumner on Wednesday in the district playoffs in Puyallup.
In spite of the way things ended, North’s accomplishments were nothing to scoff at.
“We have to look at it as a successful year, obviously,” Head Coach Jeff Weible said. “The kids prepared for the season really well. Unfortunately we just picked the wrong time of year to not hit very well.”
Weible said hitting during crucial times was a weak area for the team all year, and it hurt them in the postseason.
“If I had to pick one thing that we needed to improve on, looking back on the season, it’s getting hits in the clutch,” he said.
The Vikings lost both district tournament games by one run. They had the tying run on third base in both the sixth and seventh innings in the Sumner game.
Any strength the Vikings lacked at the plate was mostly made up for on the mound and in the field. Only twice did North Kitsap allow more than five runs during a regular season game.
The Vikings owed much of their success to pitchers Dan Jewett and Alex Smith,who combined for 12 wins. Jewett’s earned-run average was 1.85, while Smith’s was just 0.45. Both pitchers credit their teammates for their impressive stats.
“To win, you need a team, not just an individual person on the mound,” Jewett said
While Jewett relied heavily on strikeouts — he had 51 in the regular season — Smith forced batters to hit the ball where he wanted them to.
“Our defense has been solid this year,” Smith said. “I’m not necessarily a strikeout pitcher. I like to have them put the ball on the ground and let the infield do the work.”
Both pitchers said they would not be successful without their catcher and longtime friend, Nick Benish. Benish and Smith, both juniors, have played together since they were 9. Smith said that connection gives them an advantage.
“It helps a lot,” Smith said. “You tend to know what each other is thinking. You just have a feel for each other.”
All three players will wear purple again next year, but Jewett will do so at Truman State University in Missouri. Including Benish and Smith, the Vikings will return six starters, which makes Weible optimistic.
“We’ve got a lot of good young kids in the program coming up,” he said.