Knights keep Kitsap contained

BlueJackets catcher David Baker applies the tag at the plate on first baseman Bill Rowe of the Aloha Knights in the second inning. Rowe was out on the play thanks to a strong throw from Kitsap third baseman Kiki Castro. - Photo by Jesse Beals
BlueJackets catcher David Baker applies the tag at the plate on first baseman Bill Rowe of the Aloha Knights in the second inning. Rowe was out on the play thanks to a strong throw from Kitsap third baseman Kiki Castro.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

The Aloha (Ore.) Knights have made their case as the class of the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League, as evidenced by their 23-4 record in league play.

After winning a close 6-5 game over the Kitsap BlueJackets on Wednesday at the Fairgrounds Ballfields, the Knights completed their second sweep of Kitsap this season.

“They’re a good team,” BlueJackets coach Matt Acker said. “You can’t make mistakes and beat them. We made mistakes in every game.”

From six errors in game two of the series to an unchecked baserunner that scored by stealing home plate in Wednesday’s game, the little things added up as Aloha swept the Jackets by a combined margin of 25-7.

“In game two we made a lot of errors,” Acker said. “(The unchecked runner), that’s a mental mistake. What can you say? The kid (Chris Owens) is a great pitcher and he threw great. But you can’t make those mistakes.”

As a first-year team, Acker said its interesting to watch a team like Aloha to see how they built their prestigious program. Aloha is the defending National Baseball Congress World Series champion.

“It is interesting to see what they’re doing,” Acker said. “They’re the class of the league right now.”

One of the reasons the team has been so successful is due to its ties with the Portland City League, a feeder league whose players are available to Aloha. The feeder program has become so successful that Acker said he’s had preliminary discussions with a number of people regarding starting a similar league for the BlueJackets in Tacoma.

“So far, the response has been positive,” Acker said. “That’s a huge advantage Aloha has over everybody else.”

Part of making the BlueJackets (8-15 in WCCBL, 12-19 overall) a better team includes spreading the word about the team amongst players’ collegiate teammates and opponents.

“This team will be a much better team once the kids hear about what we’re doing, Acker said. “It’s what you have to do to be elite, do what they do. (Aloha is) elite.”

Monday and Tuesday’s contests were the big losses, falling 10-1 in game one and 9-1 in game two. That was largely the result of three and six errors respectively.

But Wednesday, the Jackets got an early start. After Kyle Howe gave up two runs in the first inning, Kitsap struck back, lighting up Aloha and University of Washington starter Matt Hague for two runs in the bottom half of the frame. Howe continued to struggle however, and Aloha led 5-2 after two.

After reliever Kyle Nunley shut down the only batter he faced, Owens, a product of Central Kitsap High School, took the mound and came out firing against Aloha.

The only run Owens allowed was in the fourth inning when left fielder Erik Ammon stole home plate straight up. Owens finished wit seven strong innings.

Acker said the coaching staff has simply continued to reiterate the mistakes to the players, saying with mental mistakes, the players largely have to work past them on their own.

“We just stay on them about having a good approach at the plate and take care of the ball,” Acker said. “For the most part, we’ve taken care of the ball well. If they have any fault, it’s that they go too hard. When you go too hard, you get away from your natural abilities.”

The BlueJackets started another three-game home stand against the Kelwona Falcons Thursday and Friday, with the final game in that series at 1 p.m. this afternoon.

Short hops

The BlueJackets and Kitsap County Parks and Recreation are holding a youth clinic for boys and girls ages 8-12 on Monday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Fairgrounds Ballfields. Interested players can register by phone (360-337-5350) or at the Parks office (1200 NW Fairgrounds Road) at the Fairgrounds. ... Construction crews could be seen during Wednesday’s game paving over the field hole that opened up between fields 3 and 4 at the Fairgrounds. ... Kitsap’s Sid Sandstrom celebrated his 22nd birthday starting in right field.

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