Sixth-ranked Falcons off to soaring start

Sixth-ranked Falcons off to soaring start

  • BY Wire Service
  • Monday, June 2, 2008 12:22pm
  • Sports
Brandon Cinkovich

Brandon Cinkovich

Sixth-ranked Falcons off to soaring start

Jason Evans felt an unfamiliar rumbling in his stomach last Tuesday morning.

It’s a feeling, quite frankly, the Kentlake baseball coach has not experienced in his previous two seasons with the team.

And, no, it wasn’t indigestion.

Rather, the Falcons, who’ve managed to do virtually everything right so far this season – from timely hitting to near flawless pitching and air-tight defense in between – were listed at No. 6 in the first Class 4A state poll, which came out on April 1.

No fooling.

“My stomach just dropped when I saw that,” said Evans, whose team entered this week’s games against Kentridge on Monday and Federal Way on Tuesday (both results unavailable) with a 4-0 South Puget Sound League North Division record and an 8-1 overall mark. “It was kind of like, ‘Wow,’ exciting and ‘Oh no,’ because now, we have a bull’s eye on our back.”

While Evans might feel uneasy about the high ranking – the highest any Kentlake baseball team ever has been ranked – the Falcons themselves didn’t show it that same night against Tahoma.

Down 2-1 in the top half of the sixth inning, Kentlake put together a three-run rally that has become the team’s signature this season.

Marcus Evans tied the game at 2-2 with an RBI single, driving home junior Bobby Tannehill. Moments later, junior third baseman Brandon Cinkovich connected for a two-run, opposite field home run to right-center field that ultimately sealed the Falcons’ 4-2 victory.

It was Cinkovich’s second home run of the season.

And it couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment.

“It’s unexplainable,” admitted Cinkovich, the team’s No. 7 hitter. “I was just pumped.”

Which, in a nutshell, sums up all of the Falcons these days.

If it hasn’t been clutch hitting, great defense has gotten it done. Then, of course, there’s the pitching.

Evans extolled the potential of sophomore hurlers Doug Christie and Zack Wright during the offseason, but quietly wondered how they’d hold up to the pressure of playing in the SPSL North, widely regarded as one of the toughest leagues in the state.

Christie and Wright have held their own. And then some.

They limited Tahoma to just four hits last Tuesday as the Falcons won their fifth straight game. Meanwhile, Kentlake’s 8-1 start is the best in school history. In the process, the Falcons have outscored its opponents, 64-21.

More impressive, however, might be the fact that Kentlake pitchers have kept its opponents to two or fewer runs seven times.

And those sophomores?

Wright and Christie have been solid if not spectacular, combining for six of those victories.

“I had high expectations for them,” Evans admitted. “What I was worried about most was their composure on the mound at this level. They’ve both pitched at the upper levels the last three or four seasons and there are a number of good select teams out there. But this is a tough league we’re in.

“They’ve kept us in every game. I am very excited about the next couple years with these guys.”

Of course, for the moment, all the Falcons are concerned about is the next game on the schedule and where they sit in the league standings.

At 4-0, Kentlake already has a one-game cushion on second-place Jefferson (3-1), a team expected to be in the hunt this spring, and also is a game up on Tahoma (3-1). The Falcons are two games ahead of Kentridge (2-2), which was tabbed as the league favorite by coaches before the season began, and Federal Way (also 2-2).

The top four teams advance to the postseason.

“Right now, I’d say it’s a five-team race for the top four spots,” Tahoma coach Russ Hayden said. “They’re 4-0 in the SPSL North, and I think they’re the team to beat. They play solid baseball. They’ve clutched up this year and won all the close games.”

That being the case, Evans and his crew doesn’t want to get carried away just yet.

“That was very sweet,” Evans said of Cinkovich’s game-winning home run. “But we’re still walking really lightly.”

For Tahoma (1-1, 4-3), the loss came just one day after an impressive 12-1 rout of Federal Way, a game in which Bryce Niemi went 3 for 3 with a home run and five RBIs.

ALSO: Kentridge, which returned the league’s best offense, struggled Tuesday in a 6-4 loss to Federal Way. It was the third straight game the Chargers were limited to four or fewer runs. Brady McGuire and Ben Mora each collected a pair of hits for Kentridge (2-2, 2-5). … Kentwood (1-3, 3-6) dropped its fifth straight game last Tuesday, falling to Decatur, 10-4. Joey Gillespie hit a solo home run in the second inning for the Conquerors. Kentwood bounced back the next day to rout Federal Way, 10-0, but then were on the other end as Tahoma rolled to a 14-4 win last Thursday. … Kent-Meridian (0-4, 1-6) fell to Jefferson Tuesday, 10-0, then fell 22-3 to Tahoma on Wednesday.

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