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Sablan adapting to stronger competition

Kitsap BlueJackets third baseman Vince Sablan fields a ground ball earlier this season. - Courtesy Photo
Kitsap BlueJackets third baseman Vince Sablan fields a ground ball earlier this season.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

A fitting title for a baseball book might be “A Game of Adjustments.”

Vince Sablan knows that well.

Sablan, a 2012 South Kitsap graduate, was immediately thrust into the role of starting shortstop as a sophomore for the Wolves. It was far from seamless. He was error-prone, and South’s 2010 season ended in the first game of the Class 4A West Central District playoffs.

A year later — and through a summer and fall of work — Sablan eliminated those defensive issues to help the Wolves return to the state tournament. Now Sablan, who is playing for the Kitsap BlueJackets, a Bremerton-based collegiate summer baseball team that competes in the West Coast League, faces a new challenge. The issue for Sablan, who will be a sophomore during the upcoming school year at Olympic College, is not with his defense. BlueJackets coach Ryan Parker is satisfied with Sablan’s work at third base and said he might sometimes play at shortstop for OC.

It is his bat.

The left-handed hitter Sablan led the Rangers in batting average (.290), home runs (three), RBI (29) and on-base plus-slugging percentage (.888). But the 5-foot-10 Sablan has struggled this summer with the BlueJackets as his batting average is just .198 through Monday. Parker believes Sablan’s hitting woes stem from OC’s season, though.

“We just had a bunch of injuries,” Parker said. “It depleted our offense to where teams didn’t have to worry about anyone else other than him. They started to pitch around him and he tried to do too much.”

“It affected his overall mentality. I think he felt like he had to be the main guy to drive in runs.”

Parker said that caused Sablan to become “pull happy” in his quest to hit for more power. But Parker said Sablan has been most successful when he hits the ball to all parts of the field, as he did for the Wolves.

Enter his latest adjustment period. But similar to his fielding issues at South, Parker thinks his pupil can overcome these problems.

“He’s smart enough and good enough to get back to where he was,” he said.

Another development that both believe will help Sablan is the return of his twin brother, Alex, who sustained a season-ending knee injury before the start of the Rangers’ season. The catcher now is playing for the BlueJackets’ feeder team in Olympia.

“Baseball brought us together,” Vince said. “This last year was rough without him.”

While the brothers are close, they are different. Vince always has gravitated toward playing the infield, while his brother never took off the catcher’s mask after they started playing. Those differences extend to their personalities. Parker describes Vince as “a little more laid-back,” while Alex is “a little more outgoing.”

“They kind of feed off each other, which is nice to see,” he said. “They make each other better.

“They’re never a problem. They work hard. You never have to ask them twice to do something.”

For now, Sablan is just enjoying playing against competition from major colleges. His teammates on the BlueJackets include players from New Mexico, San Diego State, Villanova and Washington.

“The competition definitely is a level up,” he said. “You get to meet new guys from all over the country.”

Sablan eventually hopes to join them. His uncle is former South standout Boya Quichocho, who now coaches at Jamestown College in North Dakota. Quichocho recruits in Washington state for the Jimmies — former South and OC teammate Zach Reyes is on their roster — and Sablan is open to joining them. And while Sablan appreciates his uncle’s guidance, he also wants to consider any possibility to extend his career.

“It’s definitely in my blood,” he said, referring to baseball. “I’m just keeping my eyes and heart open to new opportunities.”

 

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