Jackets win opener, lose fan favorite

Kitsap BlueJackets’ first baseman Brian Burmester scored the first run of the season for the Jackets in the bottom of the fourth inning. He would later leave the game with a concussion.  - Photo by Jesse Beals
Kitsap BlueJackets’ first baseman Brian Burmester scored the first run of the season for the Jackets in the bottom of the fourth inning. He would later leave the game with a concussion.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

While Kitsap BlueJackets coach Matt Acker was certainly happy his team walked away with an opening-day win, the victory proved bittersweet.

Up 4-2 over the Tacoma Cardinals in the bottom of the seventh inning, BlueJackets first baseman Brian Burmester burst from second base on a single by Brett Kaluza, intending on putting the final run on a game about to be called for rain.

With Burmester rounding third and coming in hard towards home, the Tacoma Cardinals’ Aaron Tea started a relay through to shortstop Jonathan Hagen, who fired to catcher Jake Roy. The beautifully-executed relay was ahead of Burmester. Both Burmester and Roy braced for collision, but Burmester chose the low road while Roy chose the high.

The ensuing collision left Burmester flat on his back in the mud, unsure of his surroundings.

“He had major memory loss,” Acker said after Thursday’s win. “He kept asking, ‘How did I get on base?’ ‘A walk.’ ‘Did I score?’ ‘No.’”

The loss hit Acker hard, as Burmester is one of four returners and a fan favorite at Kitsap Fairgrounds Ballfields. But as former University of Washington coach Bob MacDonald reassured Acker after the game, sending the runner was the right call.

“It’s like Coach MacDonald said. That’s standard baseball,” Acker said. “You hold him up and he pulls a hamstring.

“I like Brian a lot. It bothers me. We never want to see that happen.”

While it is unknown how long Burmester will be out (as much as two weeks is possible) as a result of the concussion, Acker said he was in much better condition last night at Harrison Medical Center.

The BlueJackets looked a much stronger team than a year ago, with timely hitting, clutch defense and solid base running contributing to the win.

After going down 2-0 in the top of the fourth, Burmester drew a one-out walk and scored when a single by right fielder Stephen Herzog was misplayed in right field, with Herzog ending up on third. An RBI single by Kaluza, who went 4-4 in his debut with a pair of RBI, scored Herzog to even the score. Left fielder Doug Buser then scored in the fifth on an RBI single by third baseman Danny Meier. The final run came in the bottom of the seventh with Joash Brodin, who was hit by a pitch to get aboard and stole second, came home on another Herzog single. Herzog finished 2-4 with a run and two RBI.

“Man, it feels great,” Herzog said of having a hand in the win. “I thought we played really good for our first game. Just the intensity of the guys. It was a great opening day.”

Starter Kyle Cline, another returner, pitched six solid innings in win, giving up just two runs on two hits while striking out four. Ted Gjeldum got the save for the Jackets. Cline showed strong control of his pitches, particularly in painting the outside corners of the plate.

“Classic Kyle Cline,” Acker said. “He throws strikes, gets after people. He’s not hung up on trying to strike everyone out.”

For the Cardinals, former local boy Shea Baumgartner (Olympic High School), now a sophomore at Green River Community College, went 1-2 with a walk, a run and a steal on the day. Overall, he’s hitting .241 with five runs and two steals in eight starts for the 1-7 Cardinals.

The former Trojan said he’s excited to be playing for the Cards.

“It’s cool,” he said. “I’m just happy to be back in town right now.”

As for the competition amongst Cardinals to nab one of the final four BlueJackets roster spots (which are locked on July 15), Baumgartner said right now, everyone is just enjoying playing.

“We’re just playing,” Baumgartner said. “Whatever happens happens. We’re just having fun playing summer ball basically.”

Two former BlueJackets also made an impact for the Cardinals, with South Kitsap grad Adam Siler going 0-2 with a walk and starter JT Heaton working 4 innings and giving up two runs on six hits with three strikeouts for a no-decision. Reliever Colin Johnson took the loss.

Acker said for the team to hit well against the Cardinals, specifically Heaton, was a particularly encouraging sign.

“That was good,” he said. “Especially for the fact we were facing JT. JT’s already seen a bunch of success in this league.”

The BlueJackets played Tacoma again last night with results unavailable at press time. The two squads go at it again tonight at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the gate or via telephone at (360) 479-0123.

Short hops

In Wednesday’s exhibition game against the All-Stars, an assemblage of community college players, third baseman Danny Meier became the first Kitsap player to hit a home run, sending a shot approximately 385 feet over the left-center field fence ... The BlueJackets honored the Sullivan family at the opener, which was sponsored by KPS Health Plans. Joe Sullivan was an original BlueJacket and Major Leaguer who helped Detroit win the 1935 World Series. Joe’s second wife Marge, sister Harriet Morton and her husband Jim and a host of other family came to the ball game ... The BlueJackets are looking for area youth baseball teams throughout the county for Little League Days at the Ballpark. For more information about the program, contact operations coordinator Matt Atwell at (360) 782-0775.

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