The Kentlake High baseball team made a promise before the season began to return to Safeco Field.
That was March, when the Falcons took a tour and had team photos taken at the stadium.
Thanks to huge performances throughout the lineup, the Falcons will make good on that promise this Friday and Saturday.
Behind a pair of pitching gems from sophomore sensations Doug Christie and Zach Wright and one all-out offensive barrage, the Falcons won a pair of Class 4A state playoff games Saturday at Kent Memorial Park, beating Battle Ground, 3-1, before lambasting Bothell, 23-2.
“We took team pictures (at Safeco Field) all over the stadium and promised to a tour guide guy that we’d get back there,” said third baseman Brandon Cinkovich, who went 5 for 8 with a triple, home run and four RBIs in the two games combined. “And we’re back there. I am going to shake his hand (when we get there).”
With the first-round and quarterfinal victories, the Falcons (20-4) will move onto the state semifinals on Friday at 4 p.m. against Richland. Snohomish and Olympia play in the other semifinal at 7 p.m. The two winners meet for the championship on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Safeco. The semifinal losers play for third place at 1 p.m.
It’s the first time in school history Kentlake has ever advanced to the state semifinals.
And on Saturday, the Falcons did it with a little bit of everything.
Christie served up the opening 3-1 win against Battle Ground on a silver-plated platter. The sophomore right-hander dominated the Tigers, allowing just three hits and striking out seven with no walks in a complete-game effort.
“I was just in the zone,” Christie said.
Left fielder Matt Smith gave Christie all the runs he would need with a two-run homer to dead center field in the bottom of the second inning.
Battle Ground’s lone run came on an RBI double by Matt Cossman in the sixth inning. But by that time, it was clear Christie was in complete control. The Kentlake right-hander threw just 81 pitches (58 for strikes) in a game that lasted less than two hours.
Wright was equally impressive in the quarterfinal throttling of Bothell, allowing just one hit in five innings of work and striking out two.
Wright didn’t allow a hit until the fifth, a weakly-struck single that squibbed just inside the third-base line.
It was a dominant performance against a Bothell team that hammered South Kitsap in its opener, 23-2.
“I was a little bit (nervous) after seeing what they did last game,” said Wright, who needed just 63 pitches to get through five innings. “I didn’t want to give up a hit.”
And while Wright was cruising, Kentlake’s offense was on another planet. The Falcons pounded 21 hits, including four home runs, one each by Wright, Cinkovich, Spencer Baldwin and Lewis Larson.
“I think it’s part of an adrenaline rush,” Kentlake coach Jason Evans said. “You get in a game and you want to just rip the ball. They got under it a little bit and they went out.
“We don’t work on that, normally.”
The Falcons put the game completely out of reach in the fifth inning, sending 18 batters to the plate — 11 straight at one point — collecting 11 hits and scoring 13 runs to take a 21-0 lead.
Despite the score, the Falcons kept the pedal to the metal, stealing bases and taking the extra base at nearly every opportunity.
“I told them, I wanted 20 runs on the board, and they came up with a few extra,” Evans said. “With Bothell winning that first game with a score like that (23-2 against South Kitsap), I don’t believe in it and I said, ‘You know what, that’s not a feeling a team should have to go home. So let’s return the favor and show them what that other team just felt like.’
“These guys responded and just did it.”
And did it well enough to keep their early-season promise, as well.