Merchant bats put on ice

MOUNT VERNON—Last year Todd Melnick was striking out an abundance of hitters for the Whidbey Merchants.

Sunday afternoon Melnick played a different role.

The former Whidbey player and current Skagit Humpie, struck out 12 Merchants in six innings of work, during his first appearance against his former teammates.

“I had never faced him for real before,” Merchant player/manager Walt Bankowski said. “He’s a good pitcher and he has a real good fastball, we knew it was going to be tough.”

Whidbey not only struggled to hit off Melnick, but had a difficult time all day with the Humpie pitchers, as they lost game one of their doubleheader 13-1 and game two 4-0.

“Even if he (Melnick) would have struggled they have four or five real good pitchers behind him,” Bankowski said.

Whidbey managed to keep game one close for the first four innings, behind the focused pitching of Jim Shulock.

“Having him back this year has really been nice,” Bankowski said. “He’s been pitching for a long time and he knows his strengths and weaknesses.”

Shulock surrendered one run in the bottom of the first, after allowing a single from Melnick, followed by an RBI double. Skagit made it 2-0 in the third after a two-out rally netted them one more score.

Whidbey battled back to within one in the top of the fourth when lefty Joel Dietz ripped a long solo home run over the right centerfield fence, bringing the score to 2-1.

Unfortunately for the Merchants, this is where their offense came to an end. The Dietz home run provided the only score of the day and was one of only three hits in game one. Whidbey did have four runners reach via walk, one hit by a pitch and another on by error, but couldn’t cause any damage.

“We had a couple of times where we had guys on, but we couldn’t get them in,” Bankowski said.

Skagit found its groove against Shulock in the fourth and fifth innings, rallying for five runs on seven hits to pull away for good. Reliever Don Jenkins allowed six more runs to end the game in the seventh inning via the 10-run rule.

Game two

Game two’s of previous doubleheaders have been less than stellar for the Merchants, but Sunday’s was a big improvement.

Although shut out 4-0 against difficult pitching from the Humpies, the Merchants had their chances to make the game close and take the win.

In the third inning they had two on with none out, but were stymied by a quick strikeout, fielder's choice, and groundout to end the threat.

The fourth inning saw the Merchants again get two on with no one out. Shulock then pulled a sharp line drive to the first baseman, who snared the ball on a nice play, doubling up Keith Ross and effectively ending the inning. The Humpies’ relief pitchers finished the game by striking out six of the last eight Merchant batters and preserving the win.

Their three pitchers combined for a one-hitter, with Walt Bankowski lining the lone hit, a single, to right field in the third inning.

The Merchants will play their first home game at 11 a.m., Sunday, June 27 at OHHS against the Whatcom Mariners. The Merchants would like to thank their sponsors, Alaska USA Home Mortgage and the Oak Harbor Police Association, for their support.

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