The Falcons hold off a late comeback by the Conquerors to win 5-4 at Safeco Field. Kentlake will play Puyallup for the state title on Saturday.
If you took all the cartoons, memes and commercials mimicking a fly ball forever hanging in the air before dropping, it still wouldn’t be as long as what Jacob Butler felt Friday afternoon.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Kentwood (18-7) junior Cole Trotignon aimed to knock in the tying run against Kentlake. Instead he hit a pop-up to right field, where Butler was waiting.
“It was up in the air forever,” he said. “I was very nervous and had butterflies in my stomach, hoping it would come down and go in my glove.”
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Finally, the baseball dropped, sending Kentlake into a frenzy. The Falcons held on to defeat its crosstown rival 5-4 in their Class 4A state semifinal game at Safeco Field.
Kentlake (19-6) plays Puyallup at 4 p.m. on Saturday for the championship. The Falcons are making their first return to the title game since 2008, when they placed second. The Vikings (24-2), regarded as the top team in the state regardless of classification, last won the Class 4A championship in 2014.
“Everybody was nervous,” said Kentlake coach Brett Jaime, whose team took a three-run lead into the seventh inning. “There can’t be a harder routine pop-up to catch.”
After the win, most Kentlake players and coaches changed into T-shirts they received Thursday. Nothing fancy, black with “Unlikely Kentlake 2017” in white lettering with a cameo image of Safeco Field in the background.
A Tacoma reporter tagged Kentlake, sans Division I players, “unlikely” when it won the North Puget Sound League Cascade Division.
Kentlake senior pitcher Caleb Jaime, the coach’s nephew, set the tone by striking out his first three batters in the first inning. Shane Nagel had a two-run single in the first, and Kentlake senior Jayke Chaves and Butler had RBI singles in the sixth inning.
“Some teams preach, ‘Let’s win state,’ ” Jaime said. “I try to preach, let’s have great practices and be really great with our processes and developing the players that we have. In terms of state titles, that was one of those things that was way out there.
“It’s funny, we are ‘unlikely.’ So, it’s neat to see the kids and how they got here … It was from playing really good baseball and developing and improving over the year. That’s exciting.”
• Puyallup pitcher Michael Newstrom struck out nine of Skyview’s first 10 hitters to help the Vikings defeat Skyview 5-4 at Safeco field on Friday. Puyallup has won 24 straight games. Skyview (17-9) plays Kentwood at 10 a.m. for third place.