Oak Harbor High School baseball coach Cody Anderson added a new dimension to his summer program this year with the goal of better preparing players for Wildcat baseball.
The program included a Cal Ripken 12U club this summer.
For the past 30 years, the Oak Harbor Baseball Association, guided by the high school coaching staff, fielded American Legion and Babe Ruth teams for players 13 and above. The number and division of squads varied each summer, depending on the need for that particular year.
This summer was the first time the association offered a team for those younger than 13. Next year Anderson hopes to add 10U and 11U teams.
The Cal Ripken organization plays on a slightly larger field (70-foot bases and 50-foot pitching distance) than most other youth organizations that generally use 60-foot bases and a 46-foot pitching distance for youngsters 12 and under.
The larger field allows base runners to lead off and steal bases like higher levels that use a 90-foot diamond.
“I would like to get more kids playing (real) baseball,” Anderson said.
Brad Gisvold, the coach of the Babe Ruth 15U team, said, “We believe having Cal Ripken available will allow the kids to mature within baseball better than other available programs. Cal Ripken allows the 9- to 12-year-olds to get a feel for longer base running, throwing, stealing and leading off.”
By the time the players reach high school, Gisvold added, they “will already know the basics and will just have to learn the way the team does things rather than teaching them how baseball is played.”
The goal for summer baseball, Anderson said, is to “improve the level of ball played by the younger kids in town.”
The players involved in the program this summer played “a lot more games” and “each team got better each week,” Anderson said.
Gisvold said the goals included scheduling 50 to 60 games and working on improving mechanics and attitudes.
He was pleased with the outcome this summer as the players did “a really good job” of meeting the goals.
“As a coach, the kids made this season very easy,” Gisvold said. “Since we have worked with these kids for so long, the kids knew our expectations and, with very little reminder, they went out there and did their jobs while having fun. I liked seeing these young men smiling and having fun while playing a game they’ve worked hard at learning.”
The 15U team may leave the Babe Ruth organization and switch to a tournament-only team next year, Gisvold said.
“The competition is better and that’s how these kids are gonna grow,” he said.
The team went unbeaten in Babe Ruth play this summer and held its own against older teams in tournaments, including winning three of four games to take first in the silver division in the final tournament of the summer last month.
Another change Gisvold would like to see is better communication between the coaches of different high school sports.
“It is very hard when the baseball coach is losing players to other sports during the baseball season,” he said. “If coaches were working together to figure out schedules to avoid as many conflicting commitments, it sure would help all involved.”
In the 20 games where stats were logged for the Babe Ruth team this summer, the local club posted a 14-4-2 record.
Will Rankin appeared in 13 games and led the team in batting average, .513 (19-for-37). He also led the team with 19 runs batted in.
Gage McLeod hit .475 (19-for-40), Cade Beasley .462 (6-for-13), Shawn Day .460 (23-for-50) and Tim Boyles .444 (20-for-45).
Scott Hilborn posted the most singles, 23; and John Blankman stroked a team-leading seven doubles. Aidan Golden, Brock Boyer, Mackay Burton and Boyles were the only players to record a triple; and Rankin had the only home run.
Hilborn topped the club in walks, 15, and tied for the most stolen bases with Boyles, 16.
Blankman pitched the most innings, 20, and struck out 28. Chandler Gisvold tossed 17.2 innings and fanned 22.
McLeod posted the best earned run average, 1.09, and struck out 21 in 19.1 innings.
Blankman had the best fielding percentage, .984, among those with at least 20 chances with only one error in 61 plays.