Sports

Kitsap gets blast from its own short past

Kitsap’s Ross Humes will return to the team this weekend after taking WCCBL Pitcher of the Year honors last season. - File Photo by Jesse Beals/2006
Kitsap’s Ross Humes will return to the team this weekend after taking WCCBL Pitcher of the Year honors last season.
— image credit: File Photo by Jesse Beals/2006

Kitsap’s already strong pitching staff is about to get even stronger.

The BlueJackets, with a team ERA of 1.95 in West Coast Collegiate Baseball League play so far this summer, are second in the league at the category, trailing only Corvallis (Ore.). But that number figures to get a little lower after the team announced Monday that ’06 Jacket Ross Humes, the WCCBL Pitcher of the Year last season, will make his return to the team this weekend in Wenatchee.

“We’re very excited,” Jackets coach Matt Acker said. “Not only did Ross have an unbelievable season at Washington State (University), but he’s also the returning WCCBL Pitcher of the Year. He brings confidence, experience. He brings so much to the table.”

Last season, Humes, a soft-tossing lefty known for his red hair, goofy grin and goofier personality, was 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA in a league-leading 71 2/3 innings last year, striking out 63 while walking just 11. A sophomore at WSU, Humes was made closer, going 3-3 in 25 relief appearances for the Cougars, posting a 4.70 ERA with 12 saves in the process. But Acker said the school may want to try Humes as a starter next season. As a result, Acker said Humes will start his 2007 Jackets season in the pen during this weekend’s trip to Wenatchee, a team Kitsap just swept, before eventually returning to the rotation.

“We have a very good pitching staff already,” Acker said. “It really helps. When he goes out there, you’ve got a heck of a chance to win a game.”

With players like Barrett Kanyer, a WSU reliever, seeing some rotation time this summer, the reacquisition of Humes will allow the staff to return to more natural roles.

“It makes it a lot stronger,” Acker said. “It makes everybody better. It makes us a lot more dynamic as a pitching staff.”

Never one to keep quiet, Humes was a big part of the team’s chemistry in 2006. As a result, Acker said it will be easy for him to rejoin his teammates, old and new.

“It’s big. Coming in will be seamless for him,” Acker said. “Some of the kids, it takes a little while to get used to what we’re doing.”

Humes was originally going to pitch in the Cape Cod League this summer, but had to enroll in summer school at WSU. Acker said it was an easy choice on both ends when Humes needed to resume pitching.

“We have the opportunity for him to throw,” he said. “He wants to be here. We can help make him better and he knows that. He makes us better and he knows that.”

Humes isn’t the only new face on the Jackets roster.

Citing concerns about playing time, University of Rhode Island infielder Jack Greenberg and Austin Peay State University’s Matt Kole both left the team last week.

As a result, the team also picked up Aaron Johnson, a 2006 Central Kitsap graduate now playing for The Citadel. Joining former Coug Tyler Owens, the team now has the former CK duo, former North Kitsap pitcher Kyle Howe and former South Kitsap infielder Josh Meeker on the roster. Both Owens and Johnson, like Meeker last season, began the year with the Tacoma Cardinals, the team’s feeder.

“The No. 1 goal for us is to win. One of the goals is also to get local talent coming back,” Acker said. “We had that with Howe. Meeker worked himself into that. I know Tyler Owens and Aaron Johnson are talented, but they’re also very young. We knew those two needed a little time down there. But they have more than enough talent. They’re exactly why those teams are there.”

Johnson already made an impact with the Jackets this weekend, helping Kitsap (12-5, 5-4) sweep defending two-time WCCBL champs Wenatchee with a 3-1 win Friday and a 5-4 win Saturday. The team beat the AppleSox (2-7) 5-3 Thursday in the series opener.

“It was definitely good for our organization as a whole,” Acker said. “Sweeps are really difficult to come by, especially against a team the quality of Wenatchee.”

In Friday’s win, Kitsap scored all three of its runs in the first three innings thanks to Ryan Voelkel RBI doubles in the first and third. Johnson then stepped in with an RBI single to finish the game 1-2 with an RBI and a walk.

Aaron Bronson pitched 5 shutout innings in the win, striking out three while walking just two. Joe Hagen picked up his second save for the Jackets.

Saturday, Kitsap needed a late push after trailing 4-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth.

After Voelkel drew a one-out walk and catcher Lawson Hipps singled, Brandon Decker came up to the plate.

Acker brought in Decker, a replacement in the game for fan favorite Jake Owens, nursing an aggravated hamstring, much to the chagrin of the crowd, especially considering Owens was 2-2 at that point with a double.

But Decker silenced critics in the eighth, as the smallest Jacket at 5-feet, 10-inches, launching one of the team’s biggest home runs, a three-run blast to tie the game at 4-4.

After Hagen again shut down the AppleSox in the top of the ninth, Voelkel again drew a walk in the bottom half, this time with two outs. Johnson came in as a pitch runner and made it to second on a wild pitch before Hippes was intentionally walked.

With a chance to win, Decker came up again and cashed in, singling home Johnson for the game winner.

“Decker was huge for us,” Acker said. We’ve used him off the bench before, but we needed to get him multiple at-bats while it was warm. He was pretty excited.”

The sweep puts Kitsap in a second-place tie in the West Division with Bend (Ore.), who the Jackets hosted last night. Results of that contest were unavailable at press time. The games, as always, are broadcast online at the BlueJackets’ Web site, www.kitsapbluejackets.com. The games are replayed for 20 hours a day.

“If we win our series with Bend, we’re in good position,” Acker said. “This series is huge.”

Kitsap hosts Bend again at 7 p.m. tonight and wraps up the homestand with a game at the same time Thursday night.

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