Sports

Corvallis wins round one with Jackets

Kitsap pitcher Matt Rossman, usually used out of the bullpen, made his second start of the season in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader, working 3 2/3 scoreless innings in the Jackets’ 3-2 loss. - Photo by Aaron Managhan
Kitsap pitcher Matt Rossman, usually used out of the bullpen, made his second start of the season in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader, working 3 2/3 scoreless innings in the Jackets’ 3-2 loss.
— image credit: Photo by Aaron Managhan

If the Kitsap BlueJackets took one step forward in taking over first place in the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League’s West Division, then they just got done taking two back from where they came.

After taking over sole possession of first place with a series win against Wenatchee at the end of June, the BlueJackets have been cold in a hot July, falling in two-of-three on the road to Bellingham before getting swept at home by Corvallis (Ore.), one of the team’s biggest rivals.

After Sunday’s 3-2 and 1-0 losses, Kitsap (20-10, 12-9) has lost three in a row and five of its last six, vaulting Corvallis and Bend (Ore.) into a first-place tie at 13-8.

While the team’s pitching has been as strong as ever, and the team’s bats continue to amass hits, it’s a lack of big hits in big situations that saw the BlueJackets drop from first to third on Sunday.

“That’s really what it was,” Kitsap first baseman Ryan Voelkel said. “We had runners on, we just couldn’t get key hits at the right moments.”

After winning 2-1 in another thriller with Bellingham Friday night, the Jackets fell 3-2 Saturday, then lost 1-0 in the first half of a doubleheader Sunday, followed by another 3-2 defeat.

While Voelkel and Kitsap coach Matt Acker both said Corvallis has a strong pitching staff, they also said the team’s own mistakes is what ultimately hurt them.

“Corvallis has a really good pitching staff,” Voelkel said. “And sometimes, you just hit the ball right at somebody.”

“They threw well and we made more mistakes than they did and we lost,” Acker said. “That’s just how it goes in this league. You make mistakes, you lose.”

Kitsap outhit Corvallis 20-16 in the series, but left 28 runners on base to the Knights’ 17. Kitsap also committed five errors to the Knights’ two.

“At some point, a kid’s got to step up,” Acker said. “We’re hitting the ball, we’re putting the ball in play. We’ve just got to get a little more clutch.”

While neither said the team had gotten too high off the recent brash of early-season success that had eluded the Jackets previously, Voelkel said this proves the team is still “human.”

“It kind of brings us down to earth,” he said. “We hadn’t lost at home yet. It lets us know we’re human.”

Right now, three of the West Division’s four teams have winning records (Bellingham is the only one that does not at 9-12). In the East Division, only Moses Lake, a league-best 14-7, sports a winning record.

“I think the kids were excited about playing Corvallis,” Acker said. “Right now, Bend and Bellingham are looking at it going, ‘Hey, we should have taken two of three from those guys.’ (Against Corvallis), we shoulda, coulda taken all three. What it all comes down to is making mistakes.”

In Sunday’s doubleheader, the Jackets had opportunities to win both games. In the opener, just seven innings because of the double billing, the Knights were able to get their lone run off Kitsap starter Aaron Bronson in the top of the sixth inning.

That’s when the Jackets had their chance to strike back.

After Voelkel and Jake Owens both walked, pinch hitter Lawson Hipps grounded out, moving runners to second and third with just one out. But then Josh Meeker popped up the first pitch he saw and Brandon Kuykendall struck out to end the threat.

In the nightcap, Corvallis again went up first, building a 3-0 lead after six innings. But Kitsap chipped away with runs in the seventh and eighth, but couldn’t quite come back.

“There’s nothing really you can say to make ‘em all feel better, other than flush it, take care of the next thing,” Acker said following the losses.

Starters Kyle Howe, Bronson and Matt Rossman didn’t allow an earned run in the series (all three runs against Howe came as the result of two Jacket errors).

Next up for Kitsap is a three-game stint with the Bells at home that began yesterday, but results of that contest were unavailable at press time. The teams battle again at 7 p.m. tonight.

Perhaps the biggest help in preparation for those games is simply having an off-day Monday.

“I think we’re gonna be fine. The day off will really help us,” Voelkel said.

Aside from July 2, the team will have played 19 games in 20 days, including travel from Kitsap to Wenatchee, then to Bellingham, back here for the Fourth of July game, back to Bellingham, then back home for the current stretch. While Acker adamantly said he loves coaching, he reminded anxious fans and onlookers that everyone needs a day off, even if they love their job.

“It’s always good. Our job is baseball. And it’s a fun job to have,” Acker said. “But I don’t think people understand what it’s like sometimes. It’s not an easy thing to do.”

As far as the rematch with Corvallis is concerned (the teams battle against July 31 in Oregon), Acker said his team will be ready, but pointed out they were more than ready for this go-round too.

“I think the energy was there already,” Acker said. “I think they wanted a part of us too. They weren’t kidding around.”

Extra bases

• Kitsap center fielder Doug Buser has quietly pieced together a four-game hitting streak heading into last night’s game.

• Bronson has the lowest opponents’ batting average in the league, holding hitters to just a .124 average. Howe is fourth with a .144. Howe is sporting a 1.09 ERA and Bronson a 1.23. Joe Hagen co-leads the league with 5 saves.

• As a team, the BlueJackets co-lead the league in hitting with a .258 average, joining Moses Lake at the top. Kitsap is second in the league in runs and third in RBI. In pitching, the team’s 1.99 ERA is second. Kitsap has also allowed the least hits.

• BlueJackets games are rebroadcast on the team’s Web site, www.kitsapbluejackets.com around the clock prior to the start of the next game.

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