Kitsap BlueJackets ride 2 grand slams to win, end successful road trip

BREMERTON — The Kitsap BlueJackets appeared to mirror the Seattle Mariners through the early part of the 2008 West Coast Collegiate Baseball League season.

With slow bats, sloppy gloves and spotty pitching, the BlueJackets struggled to an 0-6 league start out of the gate, first getting swept by rivals Corvallis (Ore.) before dropping three in a row to Wenatchee to open a six-game road trip.

Since then, however, the BlueJackets have been on fire, sweeping Moses Lake to finish the trip on a high note before busting out the brooms again this week at home against rival Bellingham.

The BlueJackets slammed the Bells (4-8) into submission on June 25, hitting not one but two grand slams in a 16-3 win.

The action started early when Max Kwan launched a bases-loaded big-fly to score Lawson Hipps, Bucky Aona and Central Kitsap product Aaron Johnson, capping a six-run first inning. Kwan finished 2 for 3 with a run and 4 RBI.

The Jackets then added seven more in the fourth when Keegan McCamment took a bases-juiced pitch yard, this time scoring Hipps, Aona and Justin Shultz. McCamment went 2 for 5 with a run and four RBI.

Aona had a strong bat in the game as well, finishing 2 for 4 with two runs and three RBI, while starter Alec Reichle threw five innings of three-hit shutout ball to earn his first win of the season.

Thursday locked up the series sweep with a narrow 1-0 win. Knotted up through bottom of the eighth innings, Kitsap broke the scoreless tie in that frame when Hipps singled in Buser, who pinch ran for McCamment after he’d reached base on an error. Closer Mike Wolford then entered and slammed the door shut, recording outs on all three batters he faced for his third save this season. Reliever Connor Whalen earned his first win as starter Chad Wagner had another strong outing, throwing five innings of three-hit shutout ball of his own, walking just one while striking out four.

The Jackets edged the Bells 5-4 Tuesday in exciting fashion, as the game was tied 4-4 heading into the bottom of the ninth. Hipps reached on an error to start and moved to second when Kwan grounded out to the mound. Shultz was then intentionally walked. That brought up Jake Owens, who singled into left field. Hipps tried to come in but was thrown out at the plate before Tacoma call-up Kyle Baskett, in his Jackets debut, singled to score Shultz, the winning run. Baskett finished 2 for 5 with a run and an RBI. Doug Buser was 2 for 4 for Kitsap, scoring a run while stealing two bases. Mike Wolford got the win as the BlueJackets used six pitchers in the game.

The offensive output has been nice, as June 25’s game was the second double-digit blowout in a week for Kitsap. The BlueJackets wrapped up the road trip last Sunday with an 18-5 win against Moses Lake. Johnson was huge in that game, finishing 4 for 6 with five RBI, one shy of Kevin Corrigan’s team record, set in 2006. Buser scored a team-record four runs in the game, topping the previous record of three by six former Jackets and current infielder Brandon Decker.

Since June 25, the BlueJackets have picked up three wins and one loss. On June 26, they beat the Bellingham Bells 1-0, then traveled to Bend, Ore., for three consecutive nights of play against the Elks. The BlueJackets dropped the first game 8-9, then came back to win 13-12 and 14-4.

Kitsap returned home last night to host Moses Lake at 7 p.m. Results of that game were unavailable at press time.

Short hops

The BlueJackets have parted ways with Central Kitsap grad and third baseman Tyler Owens, who played for Kitsap coach Matt Acker at Green River Community College before heading to New Mexico State University this fall. Owens was hitting just .143 (2 for 14) before he was let go.

Former BlueJacket Jamie Nilsen, who was undrafted after setting five single-season Great Northwest Athletic Conference records with Central Washington University, inked a free agent contract with the Kansas City Royals. Nilsen, a two-time GNAC Player of the Year, joined KC’s Arizona League affiliate, the Surprise Royals. Nilsen’s played two games, going 2 for 8 with a homer, a run and two RBI. He hit a two-run homer in his pro debut Monday.

BlueJackets fans got to catch one Locker this week, just not the one everyone thought. While Jake Locker, the University of Washington quarterback and Bells outfielder, continues to transition back into baseball (he’s focused on football since high school), the Bells said he’ll play weekend series most often, with an occasional weekday series thrown in. As a result, he didn’t play against Kitsap. Fans did get to see his cousin however, as outfielder Brady Locker finished the series 0 for 4 with a walk in two games.

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