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Strong defense and clutch hitting were the key to the Oak Harbor Junior Legion AA teams 16-1 league record and 29-7 overall record this summer.
Unfortunately the things that helped them to a first place finish in the northern division and a number one seed in the district tournament, were absent in their first post-season game Wednesday evening.
The Wildcats dropped their opening contest 4-2 to the number four seed and host team Mount Vernon at the Skagit Valley Dream Field.
The ball didnt really bounce our way today, head coach Jim Waller said.
Despite being down the entire game, the Cats had their chances to tie in the final inning, but were unable to execute. With the tying runs on first and third and two out, Kyle Issacson got caught in a pickle between first and second. After a strong effort to avoid the tag, Issacson was finally caught sliding back into first. Protests of a balk committed by Mount Vernon pitcher Joe Garcia from the Oak Harbor fans were to no avail, as the game came to an abrupt end.
We cant make mental mistakes like that, Waller said. We had our four and five hitters coming to the plate so that really hurt.
Mount Vernon jumped out to an early lead in the second inning that they never relinquished. The Bulldogs were able to generate two runs with two outs after nailing a deep fly ball to left-center field. A miscommunication by Oak Harbor center fielder Trace Mead and left fielder Matt Lambert allowed the ball to drop between them and two runs to score. Mount Vernon tacked on one more in the third inning to give them their largest advantage of the game at 3-0.
The Cats struck back with some two-out magic of their own in the bottom half of the third. Jake Jansen, who had been injured most of the season, came up with the big hit. After a single by Camden Schutte and a walk by Issacson, Jansen ripped the first pitch he saw over the center fielders head all the way to the wall for a two RBI double. Most impressive of Jansens hit was how strong the wind was blowing in from center field.
Jakes very strong, Waller said. Hes been hitting the ball really well lately.
Jansen ended the day 2-for-3 and was left standing at the plate for the final out of the game.
Oak Harbor was able to get their hits against Mount Vernon, but were unable to get them at crucial moments.
We just didnt hit the ball when we had opportunities, Waller said. We had runners on second and third a couple of times and couldnt get them in.
Josh Fritch pitched well for the Cats only giving up three earned runs, on five hits and two walks.
Josh did his job, Waller said. We just didnt support him on defense or offense.
Oak Harbor was missing four of its starters, who were away at football camp. Adam Diaz, Dan Raymond, John Lobbestael and Ryan Lange were all absent from Wednesdays game. That meant the Cats were missing their normal two, three and five hitters from the lineup. Although it may have hurt their chances, Waller doesnt want to use it as an excuse for the loss, as he knows its just a part of summer baseball.
Its just a bad coincidence, he said. Some of the kids like playing baseball more than football and for some its the other way around.
Oak Harbor 3, Everett 0
Facing elimination, the Wildcats battled for a 3-0 victory over Everett on Thursday afternoon.
I think the key thing is we played good defense, Waller said. We made all the routine plays and four really good plays.
Zack Peattie pitched a near flawless complete game for the Cats, giving up only two hits and one walk on 77 total pitches. At one point in the game he retired 15 of 16 Everett batters.
Oak Harbor generated their offense on an RBI single by Scott Donnell in the first, an RBI double by Jansen in the fourth and scored again in the fourth after Fritch hit into a double play. Issacson went 2-for-2 for the Cats.
The District AA tournament will continue throughout the weekend in Mount Vernon. The top three teams from districts will advance to the state tournament, which will be held in Anacortes this year.
If the Cats won yesterday they will play at 1:30 p.m.,today, July 26 at Sherman Anderson Field. A win tomorrow and they play for the championship at 3 p.m., Sunday at Skagit Valley Dream Field.
It would be nice to go to state this year because it is so conveinent, Waller said. We wouldnt have to live out of a suitcase and spend all that money.