Red, white and BlueJackets

A large fireworks show gave Kitsap more reason to celebrate its 2-1 win on Tuesday.  - Photo by Aaron Managhan
A large fireworks show gave Kitsap more reason to celebrate its 2-1 win on Tuesday.
— image credit: Photo by Aaron Managhan

The Kitsap BlueJackets had a lot to celebrate Tuesday night.

In addition to celebrating the Fourth of July with a fireworks show, music and various festivities, the BlueJackets also celebrated a 2-1 win over the Moses Lake Pirates in the series’ rubber match.

The Jackets topped Moses Lake 3-2 on Monday. The series win gives Kitsap its first since taking two of three from Bellingham on June 16.

“The baseball gods finally paid us back a little bit,” BlueJackets coach Scott Colby, taking the reigns while Matt Acker recovers from illness, said.

Before the Jackets and Corey Sign began blowing up fireworks after the game, Jamie Nilsen starting blowing things up during it.

Nilsen, facing an 0-2 count in the fifth inning, took a mistake pitch from Pirate Chad Hunter and stretched it down the left-field line, hooking fair and into the beer garden for his first home run of the season.

“He just made a mistake pitch,” Colby, who has coached Hunter in the past, said. “Jamie tonight showed both defensively and offensively why he’s an all-region and All-GNAC player at Central (Washington University).”

Timely offense combined with the consistent pitching of Washington State Cougar Ross Humes carried the Jackets to victory on Tuesday at Kitsap Fairgrounds Ballfields. Humes, one of the top pitchers in the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League so far this season, allowed his first run in the eighth inning, running his scoreless innings streak to 27-1/3 innings pitched before allowing his first run. Humes, 3-0, now has a 0.32 ERA in 28 innings this season.

“He’s going to be an outstanding collegiate player,” Colby said. “I see him as being a top-10 guy in the Pac-10.”

Utilizing his off-speed pitching, Humes baffled Pirate batters with an 85 mph fastball that Colby said can look deceivingly fast when following Humes’ off-speed offerings, a range that can cover 20 mph.

“When you can change speed like that, an 85-mph fastball looks 95,” Colby said.

For Humes, its a streak he hopes he can replicate, but one he certainly never saw coming.

“This is great,” Humes said after the win. “I’ve never had a streak like this before in my life.”

It doesn’t hurt that Kitsap’s catcher, Brian Rittereiser, is also Humes’ battery mate at WSU.

“Having a catcher like Brian, it’s so comfortable,” Humes said. “I can count on him for anything. Once I knew he was coming over, I was sold.”

Former North Kitsap standout, current WSU teammate and Aloha (Ore.) Knight Jared Prince also gave Humes, originally from Federal Way, some pointers on life in Kitsap.

“He was like, ‘Hey, that’s my part of the woods,’” Humes said. “I said, ‘What is there to do?’ He said, ‘Fish?’ I was like, ‘Great Jared. Thanks.’”

But Humes’ greatest thrill was being able to defend his home field on the nation’s birthday.

“I couldn’t even sleep (Monday) night,” he said. “I got about two hours of sleep. I’m surprised I had the energy to pitch eight strong innings. It was great.”

Nilsen too said his strong performance only made the holiday better.

“It feels great to win a series at home,” Nilsen said. “Especially with a big crowd on a national holiday.”

As for the troubles the Jackets faced in going 2-7 on the road, Nilsen said the squad is excited after the start of its 14-game home stand. Nilsen said he hopes the squad can use the home-field advantage to vault itself back into the WCCBL playoff picture. Currently, the BlueJackets (10-13, 7-11) are tied with Bellingham for sixth place.

“It was really important,” Nilsen said of the wins. “The season is still young. We’re still in it.”

While Nilsen’s homer gave the Jackets the lead, they would need the run that first baseman AJ Smith would drive in the next inning as well. After DH Brian Burmester drew a walk and advanced to second on a fielder’s choice, Smith, who Acker touted highly prior to the season, stroked an RBI single back up the middle that allowed a hustling Burmester to score ahead of the throw. Burmester was injured in a home-plate collision in the season opener.

“That run was huge,” Colby said. “The way the tempo was going, we knew that was a pivotal part of the game.”

The BlueJackets host Bellingham for a three-game series that started last night and continues today at 7 p.m. at Kitsap Fairgrounds Ballfields.

Short hops

Colby said Matt Acker, normally at the helm, was forced out of the series by a fever that was down to 100-degrees Tuesday night. Colby and fellow assistant coaches Joe Dominiak and David Baker, as well as Bob MacDonald, former University of Washington coach, filled in. Colby said Acker hopes to be back on the field for the Bellingham series ... Nilsen’s homer was the third of the season for the BlueJackets after no Kitsap player hit one in the 2005 inaugural campaign ... The Casual Plaids kicked out tunes to the crowd throughout the fireworks display that the BlueJackets hope will become an annual mainstay in the county ... Humes will be joined by closer Mike Tachell and outfielder Brett Kaluza as Kitsap’s representatives on the WCCBL All-Star Team, to be played Tuesday in Wenatchee. North Kitsap product Jared Prince was elected despite playing in just three WCCBL games after missing out on a U.S. national team bid, and former Viking Kyle Howe, also a BlueJacket, was named an alternate. Humes leads the WCCBL in ERA (0.32) and opposing batting average (.124) and is second in wins (3), fifth in innings pitched (28) and tied for fifth in strikeouts (21). Tachell, whose two league saves are tied for third, has four saves overall and co-leads the WCCBL in appearances with fellow Jacket John Fugett (10). Kaluza is hitting .290 in league play, scoring 10 runs. His 20 league hits are second, as are his 11 steals.

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