Kentwood baseball beat Rogers 4-0 in the first round of West Central District playoffs and punched its ticket to the state tournament.
The Conks (20-3) have made it to state five of the last six years, but missed it last year, losing to Auburn Riverside in the first round of districts.
“This [trip to state] feels a little better, because we didn’t get there last year,” said Kentwood coach Mark Zender, who is in his fourth year as program head. “We were very talented last year. We just didn’t feel the season well. To get back it felt a little more uphill.”
Kentwood will play South Kitsap in district semifinals Saturday, and is guaranteed at least a fourth place district finish. Rogers (15-7) will play Gig Harbor in a consolation quarterfinals game Wednesday.
Kentwood pitcher Jordan Jones led the way over Rogers. He struck out ten Rogers batters while allowing just three hits and walking one in seven innings of work. The Washington commit was consistent throughout his 85 pitches, even though he struggled with his off-speed pitches.
“When one thing’s just a little off, I can go to another thing more,” said Jones. “Just stay with every pitch, and location, and make sure I change speeds with the curve ball, even though it’s not working as good as I want it to.”
Before the game, Jones and catcher Shane McGuire had a plan for the Rams, who they had previously beaten 11-1 in a nonleague game. Jones walks us through it:
For the first five innings, Rogers pitcher Jon Bjerk was a good match for the Conks, pitching a curve ball with which Kentwood couldn’t make good contact. After four innings, Rogers and Kentwood were tied at zero, and Kentwood had gotten just two hits off Bjerk.
To open the bottom of the fifth, Bjerk walked Ben Wadowski and hit Lenny Smith with a pitch. Rogers brought in reliever Matt Hefty, who only tossed one pitch before Kentwood’s Cory Wabinga smacked a single to right, loading the bases.
Next up was Kramer Sims, who had gone 0-for-2 with a groundout and a strikeout earlier in the game. In his third at bat, Sims drove in three runs off a triple that sailed straight over center field.
“I was just looking for a pitch up in the zone that I could hit for a sac fly,” said Sims. “I got a hold of it, and hit a nice triple for the team. The guys were pumped.”
Chaz Lopez also had an RBI groundout, bringing Sims home.
“I know their hitters, and they’re a good hitting team,” said Rogers coach Matt Whitehead. “You give them a chance like that, and put guys on like that, they’ll take advantage of it…It comes down to execution, and they executed.”