North Kitsap defeats Fife for 2A baseball district title

It was only 10 days ago that Fife put the bow on the regular season, finishing in fourth place in the Class 2A South Puget Sound League. Fast forward to Saturday, and the Trojans found themselves in the 2A District 2/3 championship game in Silverdale at Central Kitsap High School, facing North Kitsap, one of the state’s top 2A teams.

North Kitsap came out on top, winning 7-6 in a back-and-forth, entertaining contest. But the one-run loss felt more like validation than heartbreak, fueling a belief that this Fife team can play with anyone in the state.

“It definitely feels like we have a chance to do some big things in the next couple weeks,” said senior pitcher and outfielder Spencer Willhite.

Fife started its season 4-5, stumbling out of the gates and trying to find its identity early on.

“If you were to ask me how our team was playing in the first two weeks of the season and then compare it to how we’re playing now, we were running into some injuries, not clicking,” said Fife coach Shane Nixon. “We made a couple defensive changes and some lineup changes along the way. Right now, they are playing together, they’re doing what they’re asked to do.”

Nixon pointed to the top of his lineup for providing consistency: Leadoff hitter and shortstop Chase Cretti, outfielder Ricky Reyes, third baseman Jaiden Orchard and Willhite.

“They’re hitting the ball hard,” Nixon said. “It’s just exciting to see one through nine doing their job. We considered this game a gravy game just because Enumclaw (who Fife beat earlier in the day in the semifinals) is such a tough opponent. To come away with a win against enumclaw was really impressive. To play them tough, they’ve got some dudes on that team. Now we’ll just see where we go.”

Fife opened the district tournament with a 5-1 win over Sammamish before coming from behind to beat league rival Enumclaw on Saturday morning. Against North Kitsap, Fife erased deficits on two separate occasions, clawing back into the game whenever North Kitsap threatened to pull away.

“We’re having grit,” Cretti said. “We have that chip on our shoulder right now, we’re getting barrel and doing our jobs.”

That ability to stay in games until the end should serve Fife well in the state tournament.

“It just shows you that we’re not afraid to back down from a challenge,” Willhite said. “We’ve had two games like that today and I’m just proud of our guys for just battling and just keeping in games.”

Cretti reached base three times against North Kitsap and scored a pair of runs. Orchard had an RBI triple in the third inning and Willhite had a big game with a triple in the second inning and a driving in two runs in the fifth.

“It’s good confidence for us, knowing that we can play with a team like this,” Cretti said.

None of the players on this year’s Fife team have ever played in the high school baseball postseason before this year. The last time there was a state tournament, the seniors on this year’s team were freshmen. None of them were on the varsity team.

“It’s awesome for them,” Nixon said. “It also gives them the understanding of, just because of what we were (earlier in the season), doesn’t affect what we are. It’s been a blessing to be at Fife as long as I have. The kids that we get, the players we get just love to play baseball and they’re easy to coach. It’s the families, the kids, the work ethic, all those things wrapped into one. It’s just awesome to coach them and I’m really excited they get this opportunity to go play in the regional round.”

Jon Manley covers high school sports for The News Tribune. A McClatchy President’s Award winner and Gonzaga University graduate, Manley has covered the South Sound sports scene since 2013. Born and raised in Tacoma.

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