This was it. The last chance.
Going into their spring season, the Coupeville High School baseball players from the class of 1969 knew if they were going to win a Northwest League championship in any sport during their high school careers, it had to be now. There would be no other opportunities.
The team, especially the seniors — Randy Baas, Mike Foy, Alan Hancock, John Holmes, Eric Hopkins, Wayne Southerland and Robbie Wanamaker — had “a lot of pent up frustration” coming into the season,” according to Hancock.
They turned that frustration into a diamond title, only the third in school history. It also set the table for the most successful run by Coupeville in baseball. The Wolves won five consecutive crowns from 1973 to 1977.
“After winning the championship, we all piled into Wayne Hesselgrave’s pickup truck, drove to Ebey’s Landing and dove into the water in our baseball uniforms,” Hancock said. “I know that those of us who played on this team will never forget what a great experience it was.”
Hopkins added, “So many of us had gone K through 12 together, but we were always coming up short in winning a championship. Our last chance as seniors was that baseball team. I think we were all determined to pull it off no matter what.
“(It was) a fantastic way to end our high school memories.”
This year marks the golden anniversary of that baseball championship.
The team was coached by Sid Otton, who went on to become a Hall of Fame football coach at Tumwater High School, where he led the Thunderbirds for 43 years. Before Tumwater, he coached football at Colfax and Coupeville and finished with a 394-131 record, the most wins in state history, six state titles and 27 state playoff appearances.
Otton, however, didn’t have to do much coaching with the 1969 Coupeville baseball team, according to Hancock.
“He didn’t have to,” Hancock said. “We knew how to play the game. Most all of us had grown up playing baseball and knew the fundamentals.
“Coach Otton had a quiet intensity. He never yelled or lost control, but you could tell what he wanted done and we did it.”
The season started well with a pair of non-league wins when the Wolves ran by — literally — the Anacortes junior varsity and Langley. Coupeville combined for 30 stolen bases in the two victories.
The Northwest B League season, however, did not get off to a good start — the Wolves were swept by three-time defending champion Darrington in a doubleheader.
“We were itching to win a championship in baseball,” Hancock said. “It seemed like every year Darrington would win the championship over us by one game. We couldn’t seem to win in Darrington, often losing by one run.”
That trend continued in 1969.
Coupeville committed eight errors in a 6-5 loss in the first contest and then was the victim of a perfect game in a 1-0 loss in the second.
From there, the Wolves rattled off 10 consecutive wins, including 1-0 and 8-3 wins over Darrington in the second round of the conference schedule.
Coupeville finished with a 10-2 NWL record, one game up on Darrington, which lost a game to La Conner early in the season.
“We were very good in all aspects of the game, offensively, defensively and pitching,” Hancock said. “We continually put pressure on the other team with our base running. We also had a lot of fun playing the game. Our infield pulled the hidden ball trick several times, to the chagrin of the opposing team.”
It was also a confident bunch.
Coupeville, heading into its final league doubleheader with last-place La Conner, bought a championship trophy for Otton even though it needed to sweep the Braves to wrap-up the title.
“Some of us, including me, thought this might be ‘counting our chickens before they were hatched,’ which indeed it was, but we all went together and bought the trophy before the final games against LaConner,” Hancock said. “Fortunately, we came through and won both games and the championship.”
In those years, the season ended when the league schedule was complete. Washington didn’t begin holding state baseball playoffs until the mid-70s.
“It’s too bad, because I think we could have gone far,” Hancock said.
Hancock was the leadoff hitter and played center field. He was followed in the lineup by Glenn Losey, third base; Jeff Stone, right field; Southerland, pitcher and left field; Wanamaker, pitcher and first base; Holmes, first base (when Wanamaker was pitching); Foy, left field (when Southerland was pitching); Baas, catcher; Hopkins, shortstop; and Corey Cross, second base.
Wanamaker finished with a 9-1 pitching record and 1.26 earned run average while striking out 73 in 49 innings.
Southerland was 7-1.
Southerland led the team in hitting with a .338 average and in runs batted with 31.
Hancock topped the team in hits, 23; runs, 34; total bases, 178; and stolen bases, a whopping 53 in 22 games.
Hopkins paced the team in walks with 23.
“What a great time it was,” Hopkins said.
Fifty years and it still lingers in the hearts of the champions.