Sports

Prep baseball: Brigham shuts down Kentridge, 5-2

By ERICK WALKER

Kent Reporter

Jeff Brigham may have felt a bit under the weather Friday afternoon, but that didn’t stop the Thomas Jefferson righthander from delivering a gem on the mound.

Brigham, a junior, allowed just five hits and one earned run while striking out 13 batters, leading the Raiders past Kentridge at Kent Memorial Park 5-2 in a pivotal South Puget Sound League North Division game.

“I am a little bit sick right now,” lamented Brigham, whose 13 whiffs are a season high. “I think I have the flu.”

Sick or not, Brigham’s performance certainly gave the Raiders (8-5) a big shot in the arm. TJ came into the game battling with Kentridge (7-6) and Kentlake (7-6) for one of the final two playoff berths from the North. The top four teams advance to the postseason. The loss dropped Kentridge into a tie for fourth place with Kentlake, which knocked off Federal Way Friday afternoon, 13-12. The Chargers beat the Falcons twice earlier this week and essentially hold the tie-breaker if the two teams finish in a dead heat.

“This game would have been huge for us,” said Kentridge coach John Flanigan, pointing out that the Chargers already had beaten the Raiders once this season. “Now we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Kentridge has Kent-Meridian, Auburn and Federal Way — all of which are under .500 — remaining on the schedule. Three wins would guarantee the Chargers of a playoff berth.

Jefferson took over third place in the North with the win.

And the Raiders have Brigham to thank for it. The junior got off to a rough start, loading the bases in the first despite not allowing a hit. Brigham hit a pair of Kentridge batters and walked another.

“I was a little bit rusty early,” Brigham said. “I was just trying to get my fastball down early so I could work in my other pitches.”

It was just Brigham’s second start of the season as has spent much of the spring coming out of the bullpen. His other was a no-hitter against Kentwood on April 8. It remains Kentwood’s lone North Division loss of the season.

“There’s no question, from here on out, he’s our ace,” said Jefferson coach Mike Church. “We knew he had good stuff. Now he showed he can throw a complete game.”

Brett Fitzgerald gave the Raiders a lead in the second inning with a long solo home run to straightaway left field. Branden Muraki followed with a walk and later came home on a run-scoring single down the right-field line by Harold Adams.

Kentridge responded in the bottom half of the second, when Andrew Martin worked a lead-off walk, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored moments later on a single to center field by Cory Hamada.

With a 2-1 lead, Brigham toughened. He allowed just three hits — all singles — between the second and the sixth innings. Along the way, he racked up eight strikeouts.

“He has really good offspeed pitches and his fastball really sets that up,” Hamada said. “He knows how to pitch. He knows how to be efficient.”

Jefferson tacked on one more in the fourth. Muraki worked a lead-off walk and came around on a single by Johnny Palko. Palko drove a low liner into center field that Kentridge outfielder Jason Didis couldn’t quite reach with a shoe-string try. The ball skirted past Didis, allowing Muraki to score.

The Chargers loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, but were only able to get one run out of the rally. Brigham induced a game-ending double play to seal the win.

Flanigan was impressed with the TJ pitcher.

“He’s one of the better (pitchers) we’ve seen,” Flanigan said. “He throws three pitches for strikes and can hump up a fastball when he needs to. It looked like he was throwing harder in the seventh than in the first. What I saw was, he wanted it. He wanted to go out and win that game, and he took it on his shoulders and wasn’t getting tired. He was getting stronger.”

Shayne Mathews, who collected a pair of singles, was the only Kentridge player with more than one it.

In other baseball action:

• The Todd Beamer Titans couldn’t get the big hit when they needed it Friday afternoon against the first-place Puyallup Vikings. Puyallup (12-1) tallied a run in the bottom of the seventh inning to break a 1-1 tie and remain atop the SPSL South.

The loss drops Beamer to 8-5 in the South and into a third-place tie with Curtis. The top four teams advance to the postseason.

The Titans got a strong pitching performance from Carson Wolbert, who limited the powerful Viking offense to eight hits, and their only run of the day came on a third-inning solo home run from Brian Corliss. The Beamer offense had only four hits off Puyallup pitchers Sal Arena and Kody Stone.

The Titans have three games remaining in the regular season, all against teams below them in the standings.

• Federal Way (4-8) lost another heart-breaker Friday to the Kentlake Falcons, 13-12. It was the Eagles’ fourth one-run loss of the season.

Federal Way’s offense was led by Terin Beck, who finished 3 for 4 with three RBIs and two runs. TJ Horsfall ended up 3 for 5 with and RBI and run and Drew Cratsenberg finished 2 for 5 with three runs scored.

• Decatur (6-6) remained alive for one of the four playoff berths from the SPSL South with an 11-5 win over Graham-Kapowsin Friday afternoon. The Gators’ Ryan Kim finished 3 for 3 at the plate with three RBIs and a triple. Decatur also got big days from CJ Andrus (2 for 4, 2 RBIs), Gavin Cuddie (2 for 3, RBI), Matt Elya (2 for 3, RBI) and Kyle Font (RBI, 2B).

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