Merchants finish third

ANACORTES—The season came to an end for the Whidbey Merchants baseball team Sunday afternoon, but they didn’t go down without a fight.

Facing elimination from the Quad County playoffs, Whidbey defeated the Bellingham Shockers 3-2 in its first game, only to fall, 15-1, to the Skagit Humpies in game two.

The loss finished Whidbey’s season, but this year’s 4-12 record doubled last year’s win output and left Whidbey in a third place at the Quad County tournament after fourth place regular season finish.

“It was an improvement over last year,” player/manager Walt Bankowski said. “We’re going in the right direction.”

The Merchants, who dropped three out of four games to the Shockers this year, used ninth-inning heroics to come away with their win.

Tied 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth, catcher Joel Dietz drew a one-out walk. Pinch runner Jim Shulock then advanced to third via a double from Rob Demarsh.

Don Jenkins, who went 3-for-4 with two RBI on the day, followed by trying to lay a squeeze bunt down the firstbase line. His attempt, however, was fouled off.

“I had a pretty good pitch to bunt, but it was kind of low and inside,” Jenkins said.

It didn’t take long for him to make up for the missed attempt. On the next pitch Jenkins drove a groundball to the left side of the infield, scoring Shulock, who was running on contact.

“I was just lucky to get a bat on it,” he said. “I just wanted to put it in play on the second pitch.”

The Merchants initially fell behind, 1-0, in the first inning after Bellingham’s Ben Wilmarth ripped an RBI single to center off starting pitcher Jared Mansfield. Mansfield, however, settled down for the remainder of the game.

“He has the velocity and the off-speed stuff to keep guys off-balance,” Bankowski said.

Mansfield allowed only three hits and one more run over seven and one-third innings, before hitting his fourth batter. League rules forced him to move from the mound.

Shulock came in as relief and allowed no hits on one walk.

The Merchants received a tough draw in the next game against the Humpies, who finished as the top team in the regular season and already had four wins against them.

Skagit jumped out quickly, scoring 12 runs in the first three innings against Felipe Rivera and Shulock to put the Merchants in a deep hole.

The Humpies gathered 17 hits and were aided by five walks and five errors.

Whidbey received its only run on a sacrifice fly by Dietz in the sixth inning, scoring Ross from third. The Merchants were held to just seven hits, two by Milt Campbell and one each from Ross, Mansfield, Rivera, Dietz, and Brandon Platero.

“We hit the ball in spots, but it was always right at somebody,” Bankowski said.

With the win the Humpies face Sterling Construction of Stanwood for the league title next weekend in Anacortes.

The 2005 Merchant season will start with tryouts in February and those interested can call Walt Bankowski at 679-2431.

Bankowski said he expects the team to just get stronger as a very solid core will return.

Whidbey would like to thank their season-long sponsors, Alaska USA Mortgage Company and the Oak Harbor Police Association, for their support this year.

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