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Kitsap BlueJackets avoid season sweep at hands of AppleSox
Four from Kitsap named all-stars
It took six tries, but in the end the Kitsap BlueJackets proved they could hang with the biggest of the West Coast Collegiate League’s big dogs, knocking off WCCBL-leading Wenatchee, 2-1 Thursday at Lobe Fields at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds.
The win keeps the AppleSox (18-8) from sweeping the season series after beating Kitsap (15-15) in five straight prior to the Jackets’ win.
“This puts us back up there, gets us going,” Kitsap coach Matt Acker said. “We’ve got to get going for Corvallis (Ore.). We’ve got to play well for the rest of the year.”
Kitsap struck early with two runs in the third inning, beginning with second baseman Jordan Shadle’s single up the middle. Outfielder Brian Heere slapped another single, setting up an RBI single for outfielder Kyle Baskett. Baskett advanced to second and Heere to third on a misplay by Wenatchee right fielder Jimmy Patterson, who later pitched as well. After Doug Buser grounded out, Bucky Aona finished off the scoring push with a sacrifice ground-out to score Heere.
“We knew we had these guys, a tough team,” shortstop Brandon Decker said. “We thought we should have taken two of three. But it feels really good to at least get one.”
Kitsap rode the arm of starter Trey Watt (3-1) for seven innings, as Watt had a two-hitter brewing through the seventh. He faced one batter in the eighth inning before Kitsap brought in four different relief pitchers in Alec Reichle, Jeff Brooks, Ian Opsal and Connor Whalen. That foursome combined to give up the lone AppleSox run while allowing two hits and striking one out between them. Watt finished with seven strikeouts and no walks and Whalen earned his third save, finishing off the ninth with two strikeouts.
On July 16, after the BlueJackets chased Wenatchee’s strong-armed starter Steve Ames from the game after five innings, things took a turn for the worst as Kitsap watched its 2-1 lead become a 4-2 deficit, and eventually a 5-4 loss. Wenatchee scored three runs in the top of the seventh, sparked by four consecutive singles followed by a two-run double, and held off a pair of late-inning runs by the Jackets to take the 5-4 win. James Douglas fell to 1-1 on the season after giving up four runs in 6-1/3 innings, walking no one but striking out just one. Wenatchee struck first with a run in the first inning, but Kitsap struck back harder as catcher Max Kwan, who plays collegiately for the University of Washington, launched a two-run homer that also scored Aona. That 2-1 lead held all the way until Wenatchee’s seventh-inning run. The teams traded solo runs through the eighth inning before AppleSox reliever Chad Smith picked up his second save, recording three straight outs after walking Buser. Tuesday, Wenatchee squeezed out a 1-0 win, holding the Jackets to just two hits, both by Heere. Garrett Dorn got the win for the AppleSox, pitching five no-hit innings before getting the hook. Paul Dickey was strong for the BlueJackets, allowing just one run on three hits himself while striking out six in six innings of work, but a lack of offense dropped him to 1-5 on the season. The Jackets started a three-game road series against Corvallis Thursday which concluded Saturday.
With the all-star break following, Acker said the timing for a series with the West Division leaders couldn’t be better.
“It’s tremendous,” Acker said. “We’ve got to take care of business down there.”
The league will enter its all-star break until July 24, when Kitsap returns home for a one-game homestand against affiliate Olympia.
Four Kitsap BlueJackets were named to the WCCBL West All-Star Team, all on the offensive side. Kwan, Aona, Buser and Decker represented the BlueJackets at the All-Star Game, which was played July 22 at Moses Lake’s Larson Field.
“It feels really cool,” Decker said of making the all-star team. “I’m really excited.”
Decker also is excited he gets to go along with Buser, whom he’s lived with for two summers in Kitsap.
“It’s really nice having my partner in crime, Doug Buser, going too,” he said. Kitsap also will have a representative in the Home Run Derby, but those players have not yet been named. Buser leads the way with the eighth-highest batting average in the league, swinging a .324 clip. He leads the league with 27 runs and is second with 34 hits. He and Decker are tied for second with nine steals apiece. Decker is fourth with 22 runs, hitting .263 for the season. Kwan, who’s hitting .323, is tied for second with three homers this season, having also hit eight doubles to go along with 13 RBI. Aona has been the biggest power source for Kitsap, however, pairing two homers and a league-high 28 RBI with a .312 average. He also leads the league with nine doubles and 35 hits.
“I’m proud of all of them,” Acker said. “I think some other very deserving kids didn’t get a spot too.”
No Kitsap pitchers were selected for the first time since the WCCBL began holding the All-Star Game, now in its third season.