Kitsap buzzing after home opener

BlueJacket’s lefty reliever Kyle Kline was credited with the team’s first victory in a 6-3 exhibition win Friday over the Aloha Knights. Kline pitched two scoreless innings, allowing just two singles while walking one and striking one out. - Photo by Kent Soule/Hoot Creek Photography
BlueJacket’s lefty reliever Kyle Kline was credited with the team’s first victory in a 6-3 exhibition win Friday over the Aloha Knights. Kline pitched two scoreless innings, allowing just two singles while walking one and striking one out.
— image credit: Photo by Kent Soule/Hoot Creek Photography

Long before game time, the Kitsap Fairgrounds Ballfields was buzzing with excitement Friday. Little kids were already running around sporting Kitsap BlueJackets attire, while parents and fans of the game speculated as to how the new collegiate summer league team would handle its home opener.

Everyone seemed ready for action. Even co-owner Charlie Littman could be heard conversing with fans about his excitement.

“I’ve been waiting 15 years for this day and it’s finally here,” Littman said to fans awaiting the opening pitch.

And the wait proved to be well worth it.

Before a crowd of 1,352 at the renovated ball park, the BlueJackets won their final exhibition game before West Coast Collegiate Baseball League play starts up, beating the Aloha Knights of Gresham, Ore., 6-3.

It may not have been the traditional way to win a game, but fans were ecstatic to witness the win on home turf.

“It’s a good feeling,” BlueJackets coach Matt Acker said of the win. “The people here deserve it. The kids deserve it. They battled back in it.”

Despite getting only three hits in the game, the Bluejackets found ways to win, but also got some help from erratic Knights’ relief pitching.

After falling behind 1-0 in the first inning, the teams went back and forth, with Aloha starter Tom Hanson mowing down BlueJackets left and right, including a span of seven in three innings. That included striking out the side in the fourth. He gave up just one run when Kitsap’s Brian Burmester doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly from shortstop Jake Wheeler. The hit and run were the first for the BlueJackets on their new field.

BlueJackets starter Adam Balcolm also looked sharp, striking out four while giving up just one run and seven hits, all singles.

“It went according to plan,” Acker said. It was a tough one to plan, but they battled.”

After being deadlocked at 1-1 heading into the top of the sixth, Kitsap found itself down again after Adam Hackstead scored on a Shawn Wayt RBI single. That was followed by another RBI single by leadoff man Zach Borba, scoring second baseman Eric Scriven. Down 3-1, and with just one hit at the time, the BlueJackets simply found a way to get the job done.

Center fielder Brian Munson, who also made a spectacular diving catch in center, was hit by a pitch to start the bottom of the sixth. He was moved over to third thanks to an error on Aloha third baseman Darin Holcomb. That led to a sacrifice grounder by Nik Kosach that scored Munson. Another sacrifice ground out by South Kitsap product Adam Siler evened the score at 3-3, despite still just having one hit.

“They scored and we responded,” Acker said.

“It was nice,” Siler said of his return to the county. “There was a lot of energy here tonight. It was great.”

After trading more scoreless innings, the BlueJackets came up in the bottom of the eighth determined to break out of their rut. Kosach was walked, and that was followed by a pair of singles from Siler and Brian Brown. With the bases loaded, Burmester drove one in when a dribble he hit was bobbled for another error. With the bases still juiced, catcher David Baker was hit by another pitch to pick up another run. Wheeler then hit a ball to deep center that scored Brown on the sacrifice. Up 6-3, reliever Mike Tachell was able to hold off a late rally by Aloha that saw the bases loaded with two outs to preserve the win.

“We’re getting ready,” Siler said. “The hitting will come into place. We’re ready to go.”

Likewise, Acker said the pitching will be ready to go for Saturday’s WCCBL home opener at 7 p.m. at home against Mt. Hood. The WCCBL season began yesterday on the road in Kelwona (British Columbia, Canada).

“Some of our pitchers were a little rusty,” Acker said. “But they’ve got the stuff.”

Burmester said he was excited for the opportunity to play in Kitsap this summer.

“Baseball in Washington is just unreal,” he said. “You can’t beat a Washington summer. It’s just a great environment. We have great fans.”

Siler agreed.

“This community has been waiting for a team for who knows how long,” Siler said. I’m glad to get (the win) and glad I get to be a part of it.”

Short hops

The BlueJackets experienced some minor technical difficulties during the opening ceremonies and during radio broadcasts, but the problems were ironed out. The only problem to delay the game came in the fourth inning, when Jack the BlueJacket’s ATV stalled momentarily along the first base line ... The BlueJackets were hit by five pitches in the game, including one that drilled second baseman Kyle Eley in the head. Eley was OK ... Jim Dietz, WCCBL commissioner and legendary San Diego State head coach, was in attendance for opening Knight, as were a handful of Major League scouts, including one from the San Diego Padres ... A Navy band performed several tunes prior to the game, and also played the National Anthem. A Navy EA6B Prowler jet also flew overhead ... Aloha is the defending National Baseball Congress World Series champions.

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