With first place on the line in the West Coast League's West Division, the Bellingham Bells wasted little time in making their presence known in Bremerton, Wash.
On a chilly and overcast night at the Kitsap Fairgrounds on Friday night, the Bells sent eight hitters to the plate in a four-run second inning as Bellingham outlasted Kitsap, 6-4. The Bells are now 5-2 this season and took over sole possession of first place in the West Coast League's West Division. Dylan Garcia (Chico State) had the decisive blow in the second, a bases-clearing double that provided Bellingham with momentum after Kitsap took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a double by Austin Bush (Turlock HS). Garcia finished the night with two doubles, a run scored and three RBI. The Bells came from behind again to put the BlueJackets away in front of their home crowd, the third straight game Bellingham has won coming back from an early deficit.
"I was looking for something to hit. I got a good pitch and was able to drive it," said Garcia on the post-game show.
Aaron Sandefur (Bellevue College) struck out a season-high eight hitters, scattered six hits in six innings and picked up his first win of the season. After allowing three runs in the first two innings, he settled down and struck out two hitters in the first, third and fifth innings. Ryan McMonigle (Concordia University) and David Bigelow (Gonzaga) combined to strike out two hitters in middle relief and AJ Konopaski (Pacific Lutheran) collected his first save of the season with a scoreless ninth inning.
"Aaron pitched really well, considering he has a final tomorrow (at Bellevue)," Bellingham asssistant coach Mike Gange said. "He hit his spots and really settled down after giving up a few early runs."
Walker Olis (Pacific University) scored two runs while Eric Webber (Georgetown) drove in two with RBI's in the sixth and eighth innings- both of which proved to be the winning runs. The Bells have now scored 63 runs through their first seven contests and their only two losses were by one run (5-4 to Klamath Falls) and 10-6 to Walla Walla (scored six unanswered after being down 10-0). Bellingham also got an RBI single by Gonzaga's Dustin Breshears and three walks from Jimmy Sinatro in Friday's victory.
"It's kind of been our calling card this season. Get punched and go down early, then fight back," said Gange. "Our guys don't have any quit in them."
Kitsap's Matt Narahara (University of San Francisco) took the loss, working six innings and allowing four earned runs, with five walks and five strikeouts. Besides Bush's RBI double in the first inning, the only other BlueJackets to find success offensively were Daniel Woodrow (Creighton), who finished with three infield singles and Ryan Alvarez (San Diego State), who finished with two walks and two runs scored.
Bellingham leads the West Coast League in runs scored (63), total hits (85), team average (.318), walks (42) and RBI (53). Both the Bells and the BlueJackets are atop the league in several offensive categories and Friday's contest did not disappoint early. The teams combined for seven runs through the first two innings, as Bellingham scored twice late to seal the deal. Kitsap managed one run and only two hits after the second inning.
The teams are back in action on Saturday night in game two of the three game series. First pitch is set for 6:35 PM PDT from the Kitsap Fairgrounds in Bremerton, Wash. The game can be heard on AM 930 KBAI and online at bellinghambells.com, beginning at 6:05 PM PDT with Dave Grant calling the play-by-play.