Sports

Baseball: Wildcats rally for 13-11 win

The season started with a fairy-tale finish.

Tinkerbelle sprinkled some magic on the Oak Harbor High School baseball team as it opened its season by coming from behind to defeat Ballard 13-11 at Whitman Middle School in Seattle Saturday, March 13.

The Wildcats were down to their last strike before they finally took the lead. Fighting back from deficits of 7-0 and 9-3, Oak Harbor trailed 11-10 with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the final inning.

Ben Cardinal, who entered the game as a pinch runner the previous inning, stepped to the plate for his first varsity at bat and with the game on the line.

Ballard relief pitcher Charlie Beaudoin, who was brought into the game to pitch to Cardinal, quickly put the Wildcat junior in the hole by throwing two strikes. With the Wildcats and Cardinal down to their last strike, Cardinal drove a long, towering shot to the right-center gap to clear the bases and give Oak Harbor its only lead, the only one it needed for the 13-11 win.

Oak Harbor coach Tyson VanDam said, “Last year we would have lost that game.” Indeed, they did. The same two clubs opened the 2009 season and Ballard burst to a big, early lead. The Wildcats fought back but fell short in a 9-7 loss.

This year was different for the more mature Wildcats. VanDam said, “We stayed relaxed. Even when we were behind 7-0, the kids didn’t panic.”

Oak Harbor had reason to worry when it found itself in a 5-0 hole with the season only one inning old. The Beavers added two more runs in the second before Oak Harbor finally countered with a three-run third.

Patrick Higbee started the inning with a walk. Peter Franssen singled. After Jay Stout flied out, Kian Mebane walked to load the bases. Brad Farnum singled in one run, Justin Counts was hit by a pitch to force in another and Josh Evans grounded to short which allowed the third to score.

When Gabe Clark took over on the mound for Oak Harbor in the bottom of the third and struck out the side, it appeared Oak Harbor had the momentum. But the Wildcats didn’t score in the fourth, and the Beavers’ Kyle Korsmo blasted a two-run home run to put Ballard back in control 9-3.

Oak Harbor scored without getting a hit in the top of the fifth. Mebane walked and Farnum and Counts were each plucked by a pitched ball. Mebane scored when Clark grounded out to short.

Ballard also scored in the fifth, but Oak Harbor rallied for five in the sixth and four in the seventh for the improbable win.

Wade Burns, in his first at bat of the day, singled to start the sixth. Franssen and Stout walked to fill the bases. Mebane singled in one run and Ballard switched pitchers, bringing in Danny Thompson. Farnum singled in the second run on an 0-2 pitch. Thompson recovered to strike out the next two Wildcats, but then walked Clark to force in another run.

Neither team made many defensive mistakes in the game, but Ballard had two and they turned out to be deadly for the Beavers. The first came in the next at bat when Yale Rosen came to the plate as a pinch hitter. Rosen, one of Oak Harbor’s top hitters, was limited to this one at bat because of a leg injury. He struck out, but the ball eluded the Ballard catcher and Rosen was able to reach first base as another run scored. Burns, who started the rally, put on the finishing touches by walking and forcing in another run to make it 10-9.

Thompson K’ed the next batter and finished the inning with a statistical oddity, four strike outs.

Ballard scored in the sixth with a triple and double to take an 11-9 lead and to set up the frantic finish.

Mebane started the Oak Harbor seventh with his third walk of the day. He moved to third on a couple of outs and the Wildcats appeared to be all but finished. However, the Beavers committed their second big error. The Ballard second baseman booted a Counts’ grounder, Counts reached first, a run scored and Oak Harbor was barely hanging on.

Evans scooted to first on an infield hit and Clark singled and suddenly Oak Harbor had the bases loaded with two outs.

Cardinal followed with his dramatic double.

Oak Harbor rapped out 10 hits in the game and was aided by eight Ballard walks and four hit batsmen. The Wildcats hurt themselves with 12 strikeouts and left 11 men on base.

Ballard had 11 hits, but Oak Harbor pitchers gave up just five walks, none by Clark after he entered the game in the third inning. He finished with five strikeouts.

Farnum finished the day three-for-four with a run and two RBI. Franssen was two-for-four with two runs.

Korsmo led Ballard with a double, home run, two runs and two RBI in four at bats.

Oak Harbor got the win without the services of starting infielder Nate Young and starting outfielder Sam Wolfe and the limited play of Rosen. Young did not have enough practices because he represented Oak Harbor in the state DECA competition last weekend and Wolfe is injured.

The Wildcats host Edmonds-Woodway Monday, March 15, at 4 p.m.

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