Cats set sun on Anacortes

The Oak Harbor “AA” Legion squad overcame a slew of stranded baserunners to knock off undefeated Anacortes 6-5 in nine innings on a sunny Wednesday night at the Oak Harbor High School Field.

It was a beautiful night for baseball. It was so nice that it seemed that the two teams didn’t want to stop, no matter how many chances they gave each other. Anacortes stranded a bushel of runners as well as the game went two extra innings.

“There were a lot of opportunities for both teams but we pulled it off,” said Oak Harbor coach Jim Waller about the game.

With the Wildcats playing with a shortened bench - in fact no bench, pitcher Erik Sinks went the entire way picking up the win after nine innings of work.

“I don’t know how much more he could have gone,” Waller said about Sinks. “We just had to get as much as we could from Erik.”

Anacortes entered the game 6-0 in Junior “AA” North Division play after knocking off the Wildcats 5-0 on Tuesday in Anacortes. The Oak Harbor squad, which is composed of 16 and 17-year olds who will be juniors and seniors next year, got off to a quick start putting up three runs in the top of the first inning.

Centerfielder Jake Prasser started the inning off with the first of three consecutive base hits. A fielders choice by David Bertelson scored the first run and a wild pitch brought in the next. Third baseman Mark Wasmund brought home the third run with a sacrifice making the score 3-0.

Anacortes got two right back in the top of the second, beginning the inning with three straight singles of their own. The Seahawks then took the lead with two more runs in the third. The first run came when shortstop John Lobbestael tried to throw the ball to first after a routine grounder and nailed the field umpire instead.

Trailing 4-3, the Wildcats tied the game in the bottom of the third when Prasser scored on a long single down the first-base line by Lobbestael. The Cats then added another run after a wild pitch to make the score 5-4.

After Anacortes tied the game at 5-5 in the fourth, Sinks found his rhythm and used several double-plays to get out of jams. Like the Seattle Mariners’ Jamie Moyer, Sinks didn’t rely on an overpowering fastball, instead he let the Seahawks put the ball in play and had his defense make the outs.

“I got off to a rocky start, but I settled down and let my defense play behind me,” Sinks said. “I was mainly throwing a hard slider, I just kept battling.”

Both teams had a bevy of runners on the basepaths in the later innings, but neither team could put across the winning run. Oak Harbor had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the seventh, but left the bases loaded. In the bottom of the eighth the Wildcats stranded runners at first and second.

Anacortes didn’t fare much better with runners in scoring position. Oak Harbor turned double-plays in the fifth and sixth innings to snuff rallies and then escaped from a very dangerous situation in the top of the seventh.

After a single and and error put runners on second and third with no outs, Sinks coaxed the next two Seahawk batters into a line drive to Mark Wasmund at third and a flyout to shallow center that couldn’t score the lead runner. The final out of the inning came when Wasmund snagged a sharply hit ground ball to third and beat the runner with his throw to first.

“Mark is usually a first baseman, but he was playing third tonight,” Waller said. “He made a couple of mistakes but he made a couple of great plays.”

Anacortes put runners on the basepaths again in the top of the eighth but Oak Harbor picked up a key out when a hard grounder to short struck a Seahawk baserunner going from second to third. The Wildcats then got the final out of the inning on a deep flyball to right.

In the top of the ninth, Anacortes still couldn’t score a run against the tiring Sinks. Three Seahawks tagged the ball to the outfield but Wildcat defenders were there each time. With no bench, Sinks knew that it was his game to win or lose.

“That was my whole defense, they did a great job,” he said. “I knew that I was staying in the game as long as I could throw strikes.”

The Wildcats offense came through in the bottom of the ninth. Anacortes brought in a new pitcher and Prasser greeted him with a leadoff flare single to right. After Prasser stole second, Matt Badger poked another flare single to right scoring Prasser and ending the game just as the sun was getting ready to set.

“Two flares, that’s what it takes,” Waller said. “You just have to hit it where they are not there.”

With the win Oak Harbor improved to 6-4 on the season and resides in fourth place in the North Division, a half game back of LaConner for third. Winning is nice but even more important is learning and playing to get ready for high school baseball next spring.

Since it is the summer, not every boy is available for each game. Between jobs and vacations, the Wildcats just want enough players to make a team. As it was Oak Harbor had no subs available for Wednesday’s contest.

“We don’t know what guys we’re going to have on a given night, some might be working or some might be on vacation,” Waller said. “We went with no bench tonight.”

Those who do make it will play. Everyone gets in every game and if someone wants to give pitching a shot, Waller is more than happy to let them. All this is done looking forward to next spring.

“Everybody plays every game,” Waller said. “If we have guys on the bench they’ll all get in the game halfway through. We will pitch kids that want to give it a try. The ultimate goal isn’t to win every game, it’s to win every high school game. All we ask is that the kids give 100-percent.”

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