Chris Marangon heard the talk.
Then, the Tahoma right-hander went on to silence it Wednesday night against Kentlake in a showdown between the South Puget Sound League North Division’s top two teams.
Marangon logged six gutsy innings on the mound, delivered four hits and scored the game-winning run, leading the Bears past the Falcons in eight innings, 9-8.
The performance was exactly what Tahoma (10-2 in league, 13-4 overall) needed a day after a surprise 15-4 pasting by Federal Way.
“(Playing Kentlake) was a huge motivator after yesterday’s loss to Federal Way,” said Marangon, who went 4 for 5 with three runs scored and an RBI double. “It will put (Kentlake) in their place a little bit. Before the game, they were talking a little bit of trash to us. We stayed calm and just played our game. That’s what we have to do every time.”
The win moved the Bears into a two-way tie with the Falcons (10-2, 14-3) for first place entering play Friday afternoon (results unavailable). Both teams have two games remaining on their regular-season schedules. Tahoma played Jefferson (8-4, 12-6) on Friday and will be at Decatur (3-9, 4-11) on Monday. Kentlake was at Federal Way (8-4, 8-8) on Friday and plays host to Kentridge (4-8, 5-11) on Monday.
If the two teams finish the season knotted in first place, a tiebreaker likely would be played on Wednesday to decide the North Division champion. With just two games remaining, both Tahoma and Kentlake have a two-game cushion on Jefferson (8-4, 12-6) and Federal Way (8-4, 8-8), which are tied for third place.
Tahoma has won the last two SPSL North crowns.
“The thing is, we didn’t really lose it – they beat us,” Kentlake coach Jason Evans said. “Like I told these guys, they’re hanging their heads, acting like we’re out of the whole mix. And we’re not. We’re tied for first place now … nothing is done here.”
That proved to be the case Wednesday night, when Tahoma carried an 8-5 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning. With two outs and runners on second and third, Kentlake shortstop Bobby Tannehill launched a belt-high fastball from Tahoma reliever Zach Aaker over the right-field fence, tying the game at 8-8.
Tannehill fouled off three consecutive two-strike pitches before delivering the big blast.
“Tannehill scares me more than anybody in their lineup right now,” Tahoma coach Russ Hayden said. “He hasn’t hit well all year, but he battled. That was a great at-bat. He earned that one.”
The home run, however, didn’t take away Tahoma’s hope of winning the game.
“When (Tannehill) hit that home run, it felt like the world sank,” Marangon said. “And when we were up to bat, it’s like, ‘We got to come back. We can come back; it’s a 0-0 ball game.’”
Marangon didn’t waste any time starting the game-winning rally. He opened the top of the eighth with a sharp single to right field. Bryce Niemi advanced Marangon to third with a flare single to shallow left field. Aaker followed with a double-play ground out to Kentlake second baseman Zac Sturza, allowing Marangon to come home with what proved to be the game-winning run.
Aaker, who got the win in relief of Marangon, retired the side in order in the bottom of the eighth to seal the victory.
Along with Tannehill’s clutch home run, Kentlake also got another big game from Miles Nagel, who went 3 for 3 with two doubles, three runs scored and an RBI.
• ALSO: Federal Way’s Alex French went the distance on the mound on Wednesday, limiting Kentridge (4-8, 5-11) to just six hits in a 5-0 win. With the victory, the Eagles (8-4, 8-8) clinched one of the four SPSL North playoff berths. … Taylor White, Nick Zografos and Tyler Weinbrecht all homered Wednesday, leading Kentwood (5-7, 7-10) past Decatur, 10-4. Kentwood pitcher Kent Hagen delivered a complete game with seven strikeouts to earn the win.