Out of Write Field
Making sense of the ever-changing South Kitsap sports landscape.
South Kitsap graduate Willie Bloomquist has reached an agreement to return to the Seattle Mariners, according to several sources.
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Bloomquist will sign a two-year, $5 million contract with the Mariners. He originally was drafted by Seattle in 1999 out of Arizona State and played with the Mariners from 2002-08. Since leaving Seattle, Bloomquist has played for Kansas City, Cincinnati and Arizona. In 48 games last season with the Diamondbacks, Bloomquist hit .317 and had a .360 on-base percentage.
Bloomquist, who has played second base, shortstop, third base and outfield in recent years, figures to serve as a backup in a youthful Mariners infield. Kyle Seager and Brad Miller are entrenched as the starters at third base and shortstop, respectively, while Dustin Ackley and Nick Franklin are expected to compete for the job at second base unless one is traded.
Outfielder Aaron Cunningham, a 2004 South Kitsap graduate, signed a minor-league contract Tuesday with the Chicago Cubs, according to MLBTradeRumors.com.
Cunningham, 27, spent last season in Round Rock, which is Texas’ Triple-A affiliate, and hit .247 with 10 home runs and 50 RBI. The right-handed Cunningham always has been a disciplined hitter and that continued last season as he drew 50 walks in 486 plate appearances.
This marks the seventh organization Cunningham has joined since he was drafted in the sixth round of the 2005 amateur draft by the Chicago White Sox in 2005. Cunningham last played in the major leagues in 2012, when he hit .175 in 72 games with Cleveland.
South Kitsap, which did not qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2010, will play a Narrows League crossover game at 7 p.m. Friday against Foss at Mount Tahoma High School to close out its season. The Wolves (3-6) have not played the Falcons (6-3) since 2008. That game was memorable because Foss was on the verge of earning its first win against South since 1979 before running back Sean Allison broke a 68-yard touchdown run with 56 seconds remaining. The score gave the Wolves a 29-26 win.
Here is a glance at how the playoff picture is shaping up for South Kitsap’s athletic programs:
One South runner, Mason Villarma, will compete at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Westside Classic District meet at Lakewood’s American Lake Veterans Golf Course in hopes of earning a berth to the Nov. 9 state championships at Pasco’s Sun Willows Golf Course.
The Wolves must defeat Central Kitsap by at least eight points tonight and have Yelm upset Olympia to earn a spot in the Class 4A state play-in game. Otherwise, they will play in a nonleague game against a 3A Narrows team next week to close out their season. South athletic director Ed Santos said the opponent probably would be Foss or North Thurston.
South either will be the third or fourth seed out of 4A Narrows. That means the Wolves, who must win twice in the West Central District Tournament to advance to the state playoffs, will play Thursday at Curtis High School. If South secures the league’s third seed, it will play at 5 p.m. against 4A South Puget Sound League South Division’s No. 3 team. If the Wolves are 4A Narrows’ No. 4, they play SPSL South’s second seed at 7 p.m.
The Wolves’ Zoe Desmet won the 100-yard freestyle during last week’s 4A Narrows League championships and advances to compete at today’s and Saturday’s West Central District meet. Events begin at 4:30 p.m. both days at Curtis.
South must win twice during Saturday’s 4A Narrows League Tournament to advance to districts. Its first match is at 10 a.m. against Central Kitsap at Mount Tahoma High School.
Along with the game-time change for South Kitsap’s Saturday game at Olympia, which now is set for 3 p.m. because of SAT conflicts, another interesting revelation came out of the Wolves’ 31-0 loss Friday against Bellarmine Prep. Coach Eric Canton confirmed afterward that the Class 4A Narrows League only will receive three berths to the state play-in game. That is one fewer than last year.
It is a change that could have significant ramifications for the Wolves.
In 2012, South claimed the league’s fourth playoff spot with a 3-3 record in 4A Narrows play. Given that scenario, the Wolves might have been able to entertain playoff prospects even with a loss Saturday. That is because they likely will be favored in their two remaining league games this month, Oct. 11 against Yelm and Oct. 25 at Stadium, before concluding the regular season Nov. 1 at home against Central Kitsap.
But now that South has lost its first two league games, it will have to win its final four league contests to make the playoffs. Otherwise, the Wolves will finish the season outside of the playoffs for the first time since 2010. In that scenario, South will play a crossover game against a 3A Narrows school.
Athletic director Ed Santos said the crossover likely will be a road game because the Wolves have five home contests this season. In addition, he said South probably would compete against a team that has similar ability and one that it has not played lately. But the latter factor is not significant for the Wolves as the only team they play from 3A Narrows during the regular season, Oct. 18 against Lincoln, is likely to win the league championship. That seems to leave Foss, North Thurston, Shelton and Timberline as the most likely opponents for South.
Roch Kubatko, who covers the Baltimore Orioles for MASNsports.com, does not believe 2000 South Kitsap High School graduate Jason Hammel will return to the team next season. Kubatko covers that topic toward the end of his piece reflecting on the Orioles. Hammel, 31, is eligible for free agency after the conclusion of the World Series.
After a career-best season in 2012, Hammel finished with a 7-8 record and a 4.97 ERA this season. Perhaps the most significant reason behind his success in 2012 was his 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings, which was the best rate of his career. The rate fell to 6.2 this year.
Hammel, who was acquired by Baltimore with reliever Matt Lindstrom from Colorado for right-handed starter Jeremy Guthrie on Feb. 6, 2012, has pitched in parts of eight major-league seasons. He has a 49-59 record with a 4.80 ERA for Tampa Bay, Colorado and Baltimore.
Follow sports long enough and you will hear no shortage of coach-speak and clichés about “taking it one game at a time” and “all of our focus is on this week.” Fortunately, sportswriters and fans are under no such obligation, which leads us to the Class 4A Narrows League’s playoff picture.
While it might seem absurd to look that far ahead as South Kitsap enters league play Friday night against Gig Harbor at Roy Anderson Field, a closer examination reinforces how important this game is for the Wolves. That is because only the top four teams in 4A Narrows advance to the state play-in game.
A loss Friday night means South likely starts the season 0-2 in league as league-favorite Bellarmine Prep visits Port Orchard on Sept. 27. The Wolves then follow that with an Oct. 5 game at Olympia, which is coming off its first losing season in nearly a decade. But Ingersoll Stadium never is an easy venue for the visiting team, especially for South. The Wolves have lost five of their last six games against the Bears. Their only win during that span came in 2009 when Leon La Deaux translated a fake punt into an 82-yard touchdown in a 10-6 victory.
The league schedule then lightens with games against Yelm and at Stadium, sandwiched by a nonleague contest versus Lincoln, to finish October. The Wolves should be favored in both league games. But that leaves only one 4A Narrows game, Nov. 1 against Central Kitsap, remaining. A loss against Gig Harbor likely means that would fall into the must-win category for South to advance to the playoffs. And relying on a win in a rivalry that has been evenly matched — the Wolves are 23-23-1 since 1949 against the Cougars — would be shortsighted.
A win against Gig Harbor changes the conversation. Beating the Tides means South should win at least three league games, which likely would be enough to secure the league’s No. 4 playoff spot. The focus then would be on playoff positioning. Wins against either Central or Olympia probably would bump the Wolves into 4A Narrows’ third-playoff position. The difference between the league Nos. 3-4 playoff positions last year for South, which earned 4A Narrows’ final playoff spot, was visiting Camas instead of Auburn.
That topic only is relevant with a win Friday night, though.
As we reported Wednesday, South Kitsap’s football opener at Kentridge has been rescheduled for Sept. 5. The game originally was scheduled for the following day. South coach Eric Canton said his staff confirmed the change Thursday morning with Kentridge, which he initially learned about during Wednesday night’s practice, but did not have many more details to share.
“I haven’t been given a rational,” he said, adding that the game will start at 7 p.m.
With football practice beginning throughout the state Wednesday — the Wolves will hit the field from 6:30 to 8 p.m. that day — I thought I would post the team’s regular-season schedule, as well. South Kitsap’s game at Olympia will be the first time it has played a regular-season game on Saturday since Oct. 17, 2009, at Stadium.
Sept. 6 at Kentridge
Sept. 13 Newport
Sept. 20 at Gig Harbor
Sept. 27 Bellarmine Prep
Oct.5 at Olympia
Oct. 11 Yelm
Oct. 18 Lincoln
Oct. 25 at Stadium
Nov. 1 Central Kitsap
Brady Steiger is the latest South Kitsap graduate to become a professional baseball player.
Steiger, who led Idaho’s Lewis-Clark State College in batting average (.430), hits (89) and doubles (22) last season, recently signed a free-agent contract with the New York Yankees.
A 2009 South graduate, Steiger had another year of eligibility at LCSC and it appeared he would return to school after he was bypassed during June’s Major League Baseball amateur draft. But the Yankees maintained their interest in the left-handed hitting first baseman while he played this summer for the Seattle Studs, a select collegiate team.
Steiger played third base at South before signing with Washington State. He played one season for the Cougars before sitting out the 2011 season. Steiger then transferred to Sierra College in California, where he was teammates with former South pitcher Collin Monagle, before moving onto LCSC.
He now will report to the Yankees’ Gulf Coast League team in Tampa, Fla.