Jackson making all the right moves to start season | Baseball

Young Wolfpack pitching staff is throwing strikes
By David Pan | Apr 05, 2019
Photo by: David R Pan Jackson’s Case Matter pitches to Lake Stevens during a Wesco 4A game Wednesday, March 27 at Jackson High School.

The Jackson baseball team should be among the top contenders in the Wesco 4A.

Heading into Friday’s game with first place Cascade (4-0 in the league, 7-3 overall), the Timberwolves (3-1, 7-3) find themselves in a three-way tie for second place with Monroe (3-1, 7-3) and Mount Vernon (3-1, 6-4).

Wolfpack coach Kirk Nicholson likes how Jackson is playing two weeks in the league schedule.

“Defensively, we are pretty sound and we throw a lot of strikes,” he said. “We haven’t thrown a lot of free bases. I like the attitude of the kids, their work ethic and the things that they try to make other teams do against us. We’ve won games in different ways. We’re not a home run hitting team. We put the ball in play and do things right.”

In the league opener, the Timberwolves used their defense and some clutch hitting to edge Lake Stevens 4-3. Senior centerfielder Kyle Serres made a diving catch with the score knotted at 3 in the top of the seventh inning. If the ball falls in for a hit, the Vikings score two runs and possibly win the game. Instead, Jackson pushed across the winning run in the bottom of the inning.

“He saved the game for us,” Nicholson said of Serres. “He’s made some really great plays out there.”

In the next game, the Wolfpack offense then teed off on the Lake Stevens pitching staff and coasted to an 11-1 victory.

Jackson followed up with a 4-2 victory over Kamiak, a game that put the Wolfpack’s small ball skills to use.

“We had two well- placed bunts,” junior co-captain Case Matter said. “They were good bunts. We’ve been working on that.”

Matter, who picked up the victory in the opener against Lake Stevens, leads a young but talented pitching staff that includes a freshman, a sophomore, three juniors and one senior.

Sophomore Evan Canfield and freshman Dominic Hellman have Jackson’s other two league victories.

Nicholson noted that all of his pitchers with the exception of Hellman pitched last season.

“It isn’t like they’re inexperienced,” he said. “I have five pitchers that I really like. The key is they come in and they throw strikes.”

Nicholson recalled that the Wolfpack faced some self-inflected challenging situations because of walks last season.

“I don’t see those things happening this year,” he said.

Senior catcher Ben Steck gives the Timberwolves veteran experience behind the plate.

“He knows how to call the game,” Matter said. “You know when you throw a pitch in the dirt, he’s going to block it. You trust him when he calls a pitch and you execute that it’s going to go well for you.”

Nicholson describes Steck, who is headed to Oregon State, as probably the best player in the area.

“It isn’t just his catching. It’s his knowledge of the game,” Nicholson said. “I don’t call any pitches. I don’t have to. He calls everything. … He swings the bat pretty dang good. He’s a pretty strong guy for us.”

Steck said the team’s young pitchers have all the skills they need to be successful.

“It’s the mental part of the game,” Steck said. “They all have good stuff.”

Hellman and senior Dylan Anders are platooning at shortstop with Matter at second base when he’s not pitching.

“I feel good about four people that could play there (shortstop) too,” Nicholson said. “My third baseman Ryan Contreras could be there. Case could too, but I don’t like doing that with his arm.”

Nicholson has no qualms about going to his bench.

“I feel like there are 12, 13 guys that can play at different times and situations,” he said.

The Timberwolves have come a long way since the start of the season.

“We’ve slowly grown as a team together and kind of picked it up and started playing with a winning mentality and playing together as a team,” Matter said.

“We’ve always got to have focus when we’re playing,” Steck added. “We can’t take a pitch off.”

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