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Originally published May 11, 2013 at 9:56 PM | Page modified May 12, 2013 at 10:42 PM

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McDowell's big homer powers Puyallup to district title | Baseball

Tyler McDowell's three-run home run in the first inning helped top-ranked Puyallup to a 9-3 win over South Kitsap.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Tyler McDowell quit thinking so hard and started hitting the ball hard again.

His three-run home run to deep right-center field in the first inning ended a slump and started top-ranked Puyallup High School on its way to the West Central 4A District baseball championship Saturday. The Vikings went on to beat No. 10 South Kitsap, 9-3, at Art Wright Field at Kent Memorial Park.

"It feels good to get out of a slump," said McDowell, who also picked up the victory on the mound. "I don't think I got a hit in three games, at least a solid hit. Man, it feels good to get out of it."

He also stroked an RBI single in the third and was just shy of another homer in the fourth when his shot was caught against the fence.

McDowell said the home run gave him some confidence after a shaky pitching start. South Kitsap took advantage of three walks and a balk to score in the top of the first. McDowell settled down, then was lifted in the fifth after the Wolves loaded the bases. Logan Knowles came on to end the threat and finished the game.

The Vikings (22-2) open state-tournament play next Saturday against Heritage of Vancouver at Heidelberg Park in Tacoma. They have won six in a row since a 6-3 loss to rival Rogers and have their sights set the state title after losing in last year's final to Kentwood.

"Our biggest goal is just winning state now," McDowell said.

Third/fourth

Kentwood 9, Skyview 4

Tanner Wessling wanted a long fly ball.

He got one, all right, a really long one.

Wessling's grand slam in the top of the seventh inning erased a 4-3 deficit and sparked the fifth-ranked Conquerors past the No. 6 Storm of Vancouver.

Kentwood (19-5), which took an 11-1 drubbing from South Kitsap earlier in the day, advances to state as the No. 3 seed and plays Bothell next Saturday at Everett Memorial Stadium.

The Conquerors were on the brink of losing back-to-back games for the first time this season after trailing 4-2 through six. But two walks and two bloop singles produced one run. When Wessling came to the plate with one out and the bases still full, he was simply looking for a sacrifice fly to extend the game.

"I'm thinking, get a ball I can get in the air, get the tying run in and give us another inning to play," the senior right fielder said. "Then I just happened to get lucky and square one up."

Luck hasn't had a lot to do with the kind of season Wessling is enjoying. With the six he collected in the game, he raised his team-leading RBI total to 38.

"He's a kid who's worked really hard and progressed," coach Mark Zender said. "His hard work has really paid off."

Wessling, one of only two seniors who start full-time, closed out the game by pitching the seventh. He said it was important for the team to bounce back after the dismal performance in the semifinals.

"I think it was crucial to get that win," he said. "I think it shows a lot about our team and the fight we have."

Semifinals

South Kitsap 11, Kentwood 1

Tyler Ludlow broke a 1-1 tie with a three-run homer in the bottom of the third and the Wolves rolled. They took advantage of 10 free passes (eight walks, two hit batters). Kentwood managed just three hits.

Puyallup 10, Skyview 1

Darian Clemens doubled twice and Brendan Illies went 3 for 4 with a double and two RBI to pace Puyallup's 16-hit attack. Jacob Howard tossed a two-hitter for the Vikings.

Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or sringer@seattletimes.com

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