Kentlake’s true persona is to play like dirt bags. The Falcons have a scrappy style with versatile players who can be inserted almost anywhere on the field to help patch together victories.
Kentlake baseball is back to being dirt bags.
And that’s a good thing.
Last season was an unexpected whirlwind prompting a newspaper to tag the team “Unlikely Kentlake” as it advanced to the Class 4A state championship game for the first time since 2008. Coach Brett Jaime purchased custom T-shirts for fans and the team with the slogan written across the front. Kentlake lost 3-2 to Puyallup at Safeco Field for the title.
“I look at it and still think about (the playoff run),” Jaime said of the shirts.
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Tucked under the excitement was Kentlake’s true persona, which is to play like dirt bags. The Falcons have a scrappy style with versatile players who can be inserted almost anywhere on the field to help patch together victories.
Kentlake (12-0, 7-0 North Puget Sound League) has opened the season undefeated and ranked second in Class 4A, according to WashingtonBaseballPoll.com.
“It’s creating an identity in the style of play that you want to have,” Jaime said of the nickname he gave the team last season, taking it as far as not washing the uniforms.
He dropped that idea this season.
“When these guys play their best, they have a gritty flair to them and they’re not coasting through the games or trying to look cool,” Jaime continued. “They look good when playing hard.”
Senior Jacob Butler is leading the team offensively, batting .412 with 15 RBI and one home run.
On the mound is right-handed senior Dylan Mackie, who has a 1.50 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 18 innings.
Unlike past years, Kentlake isn’t as impressed with the stats or victories. The Falcons expected this type of start and are looking to the upcoming stretch of games to really see where they are in terms of repeating their playoff run.
Perennial league favorites Kentridge (9-2, 6-1), Kentwood (6-4, 4-2) and Tahoma (9-2, 7-0) are Kentlake’s next six games. The Falcons beat Kentridge 2-0 Monday.
Last season, the Falcons defeated Kentwood 5-4 to advance to the championship game. The Conquerors have won three state titles and placed second in 2016.
“It relieves a lot of stress,” Kentlake senior Zach Archibald said of defeating their rival.
Archibald, who has pitched 11 innings while also playing in the infield this season, went on, “Their baseball program has been at the top for so long, it’s time to finally move above them and it’s good to do that. You’re not really tested until you beat someone good. You can beat bad teams and think you’re the greatest. But if you beat a great team, you’re good.”
The region’s typical soggy spring has restricted Kentlake to indoor practices. The rainouts are giving players such as senior pitcher Jordon Wright time to heal from injuries. He was on the mound for the title game last year.
But it also has the Falcons looking a little scrappier than they’d like when they do get to play.
“We definitely have a tough road ahead,” said junior J.J. Gerarden, who’s added left field to his game-day assignments. “We haven’t been playing the best baseball of the games we’ve had so far. But things are finally coming together and we’re playing better in regards to small ball, doing the little jobs and the mental things like knowing where to be. That’s a key aspect.”
An aspect that has turned unlikely into expected.
“We could have the chance for another really special season,” Jaime said. “I expect us to be really tough, but what that means and how it all plays out, we’ll see.”
One thing is certain — it’ll be dirty.