History of OHHS baseball includes some unusual, interesting curves

As the dreary days of winter close in and the effects of the coronavirus continue to make us claustrophobic, we thought you might enjoy another escape into memories of past springs.

Currently, there’s not much joy in Mudville, or Marinersville for that matter, but you’ll likely find some fun in the more interesting, unusual and quirky aspects of Oak Harbor High School baseball history.

Fit to be tied

On April 15, 1980, Oak Harbor and Everett played a 20-inning game that ended in a 1-1 tie. The Seagulls, however, thought they were robbed.

Everett “exploded” for two runs in the top of the 21st inning. In the bottom half, the game was one out from ending when it was called for darkness by the plate umpire, who claimed he could no longer see the pitches. At that point, Oak Harbor had a runner on first and the batter, who represented the tying run, had a 3-0 count.

By today’s rules, the game would have been suspended and continued where it left off. Not so in 1980. Since Oak Harbor couldn’t complete its at bat, the game reverted back to the last complete inning of play, which was the 20th. Since the game was tied at that point, it was declared no contest and had to be replayed — from the beginning.

The teams were able to play 20 innings before darkness struck because it was the first game of a scheduled doubleheader and began at 1:30 p.m. instead of the normal start time of 3:45. The 1:30 start also made for an odd setting because the teams began the game while students were still in class (school ended at 2:15) just an outfield toss away from the field.

By running overtime, the marathon contest also ruined the after-game plans of some of the Oak Harbor players who had tickets to see the Rolling Stones in Seattle that evening.

The game included several individual feats that couldn’t happen today because of current pitch-count restrictions.

Everett’s Laird Gunn pitched the entire 20-plus innings for the Seagulls with nine strikeouts and three walks. The Wildcats collected 14 hits and left 17 runners stranded.

Oak Harbor’s Reed Evans tossed the first 14 innings, racking up 17 strikeouts while allowing no walks, one unearned runs and six hits.

Gary Carpenter followed by blanking Everett for six innings, surrendoring only three hits until the top of the 21st. In the 21st, a single, walk and three errors allowed the Seagulls to score twice.

Evans was Oak Harbor’s leadoff hitter and walked to start the bottom of the first inning; he would later score on a double by Ben Johnson. None of the following 79 hitters crossed home plate.

Everett scored its run in the third on two errors and a single.

Two days later the clubs had to start over in the makeup game. After combining to score only two runs in the 20-inning contest, the two teams scored 24 in Everett’s 13-11 win. The teams also combined for 14 errors. Down 13-5 in the bottom of the seventh, Oak Harbor rallied for six runs and left the bases loaded to make things interesting.

Dominant decade

During the 1960s, Oak Harbor won seven league titles.

The display of perennial power was paced by a strong string of pitchers, including Mike Smith, Dick Faris, Scott Doman, Ken Lee, Jeff Short, Keith Hoffman, Larry Dykers and Tom Gwartney.

In 1963, Faris fired two no-hitters, five shutouts and nine complete games. He struck out 17 in a win over Mount Vernon.

Short and Hoffman surrendered only three earned runs in 87 innings for a combined ERA of 0.24 and 14-0 record in 1967.

Dykers pitched four one-hitters and five shutouts in 1968.

Like Faris, Troy Wilder (1976) also tossed two no-hitters. Other no-hitters were thrown by Doman (1964), Steve Eacrett (1981), Trig Johnson (1992), James Taylor (1995) and Dewayne Oxford (2002).

Fifteen Wildcats have been chosen to play in the prestigious senior all-state series at the end of their careers: Mel Elvebak (1967), Short (1967), Mike Waller (1968), Frank Shugart (1974), Wilder (1976), Perry Isaacson (1981), Rick Neumiller (1983), Doug Mills (1990), John McAninch (1991), Trig Johnson (1992), Maurice Perigo (1994), Tim DeWispeleare (1994), Josh Sarpy (1995), Brian Wasinger (1998) and Jay Hartman (2000).

Crossing paths with future major leaguers

Oak Harbor defeated Snohomish 1-0 for the league championship in 1964 despite being no-hit by the Panthers’ Jim Ollom, who would go on to pitch for the Minnesota Twins.

Ollom struck out 15 and allowed only two base runners, both on walks. One of those free passes came in the bottom of the seventh when he walked Jim Cope. Cope stole second, went to third on a passed ball and then took advantage of Ollom’s long, slow windup to steal home and snare the pennant for the Wildcats.

Oak Harbor faced Marysville’s Larry Christensen several times. After his senior year in high school in 1972, Christensen was the third player and first pitcher selected in the Major League draft. He would eventually pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.

He no-hit Oak Harbor in 1971, but the Wildcats avenged the loss by knocking him out of the game later that season.

John Olerud, who went on to be an all-star first baseman for Toronto and Seattle, pitched Bellevue’s Interlake High School to an 8-3 win over Oak Harbor in the 1986 state tournament. He also hit a home run and double in the game. The five-run win was the closest game the Saints had in the tournament as they went on to claim the state crown.

Shorewood’s Blake Snell, who led the Tampa Bay Rays to the World Series this year, pitched a two-hitter with 19 strikeouts and no walks in the Thunderbirds’ 2-0 win that denied Oak Harbor a share of the league lead in 2011.

Pro prospects

Five Oak Harbor players have been drafted and played professional baseball.

Wilder was drafted in the 19th round by Cleveland in 1976 and played five years of minor-league ball. In 1979, he went 13-4 with a 3.52 ERA in AA. Overall he was 27-18 with an ERA of 4.02.

Chris Isaacson was taken as a catcher in the eighth round by Cleveland in 1987 after playing at Eastern Washington University. Isaacson was also an all-state running back in high school and originally went to Eastern on a football scholarship but switched to baseball. (Eastern played Division I baseball at the time.) At EWU, Isaacson set the school’s career home record.

In two minor league seasons, Isaacson hit .244. Of his 70 hits, 33 were for extra bases, including 20 home runs.

McAninch, after being named NAIA All-American for Lewis-Clark State College (Lewiston, Idaho), was taken in the 30th round by the California Angels in 1995.

In three seasons of A ball, McAninch, who switched to catcher after playing third base in high school, hit .249 with 37 doubles and 16 home runs.

Andre Marshall, an outfielder, was drafted twice. He was taken by Oakland in the 29th round in 1999 after two years at Walla Walla Community College. He did not sign, and he was then selected by Philadelphia in the 13th round in 2001 after competing for the University of Washington.

He played three years at the A level, hitting .218 with 28 doubles, four triples, five home runs and 36 stolen bases.

Marshall also played four years of independent baseball, where he hit .294.

After three years at Washington State University, Yale Rosen was picked by San Diego in the 11th round of the 2014 draft.

Rosen, an outfielder, played two years of A baseball, hitting .230 with 27 doubles and 17 home runs.

Statistical stars

Chris Isaacson missed his senior high school baseball season because of a broken thumb but still put up impressive numbers, including a school single-season record batting average of .541 (40-74) as a sophomore in 1981. Isaacson also hit a school record 10 triples — three times hitting a pair in a single game — that season. The 1981 team, by the way, hit 33 triples; the next highest single-season total is 16.

McAninch holds the school single-season on-base average of .722 (52-72), set in 1991.

Marshall Lobbestael, who went on to play quarterback for Washington State University, struck out only once in 71 at bats in 2006.

Ryan Johnson struck out 20 batters in a seven-inning game in Oak Harbor’s win over Arlington in 2003. A ground out to third base in the third inning was the only out not recorded by a strikeout. Johnson finished with a three-hitter and walked only one.

DeWispeleare is the only Wildcat to hit for the cycle, achieving the feat at Edmonds-Woodway in 1994. In the game, he collected a school single-game record six hits (two singles, two doubles, triple and home run) and six RBI.

The Unexpected

One could point to Oak Harbor’s 1990 season as the team’s most successful — the Wildcats finished second in the state tournament. However, in some ways the season could also be described as its most enigmatic.

The Wildcats were a .500 team most of the year, posting a 10-8 record late in the regular season. Oak Harbor then won eight consecutive games, including six straight postseason wins, to land in the state title game. Four of the playoff victories were in loser-out games.

The Wildcats lost a heartbreaker in the state championship tilt, falling 1-0 to Fort Vancouver, to end the late-season run. By the way, the Oak Harbor softball team lost to Juanita 8-4 in the state finals the same day. The second-place finishes were the best by any Oak Harbor team until the football squad claimed the state crown in 2006.

All season, Oak Harbor beat the good teams and struggled with the less talented. Oak Harbor was 12-1 against schools that qualified for the playoffs and only 6-8 against all others. The Wildcats, who finished second in the league standings, defeated first-place Cascade all four times the teams met during the season but lost to last-place Shorecrest twice.

Perhaps the opening game of the season, a 23-1 win over perennial power Juanita, promised good things to come as the season unfolded.

In the first round of the state tournament, Oak Harbor scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to slip by Redmond 4-3.

Down 2-0, Oak Harbor thought it took the lead when McAninch hit what appeared to be a three-run, inside-the-park home run with a shot down the right-field line in the third inning. On the play, the Redmond fielder slid to brake his momentum and avoid running into the fence. The slide, however, caused him to get his pant leg hung up on the bottom of the chain-link fence and he couldn’t reach the ball.

After the play was over, Redmond protested, saying the first base umpire raised his hands, indicating a dead ball, and the play should have stopped. The umpire admitted his mistake, which was similar to an inadvertent whistle in football or basketball, and McAninch was sent back to second and the another runner to third; both were eventually stranded and Oak Harbor trailed 2-1.

With Oak Harbor down 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh, McAninch, in an act of karma, hit a walk-off, bases-loaded triple in the same spot.

Oak Harbor then defeated Interlake 5-2 to reach the final four.

In the semi-final game, the Wildcats faced top-ranked and 22-1 Shade Park. The Highlanders entered the game averaging 13 runs per game and featured a lineup that included four hitters batting over .400. Mills took a no-hitter into the fifth inning and the Wildcats chased pitcher John Thompson, who would later get drafted, on the way to a 7-1 win.

That put Oak Harbor in the title game. Despite a five-hitter by sophomore Trig Johnson, the Wildcats fell 1-0, ending the Wildcats’ unlikely run in the playoffs.