Saturday night was a back and forth battle between the Bellingham Bells (17-9) and Kitsap BlueJackets (10-13) that ended in a 3-2 Bells win.
“This was a battle,” said pitching coach Jim Clem. “The BlueJackets made it very tough on us tonight. They battled back, but the difference was that we were able to get some big hits in big spots to go with our great pitching performances.”
The Bells did not wait long to score their first run of the night. Beau Branton was inserted into the leadoff spot of the lineup and started the game off with a single. Two batters later Branton’s college teammate at Stanford, Jesse Kuet, drove him in with an RBI double for the first run of the game. The Bells still had a chance to add on after Kuet and Andrew Reichenbach advanced to third and second respectively on a Adam Cline wild pitch. The rally ended there when Cline struck Walker Olis out to end the inning.
Starting with a 1-0 lead, Bells' starter Reagan Todd turned in his best start of the season. Todd shutout the Bluejackets through his first four innings, despite a close call in the bottom of the fourth inning. The inning started with the BlueJackets getting the first two batters on by way of singles. Todd then went to work. He got Aaron Ping out on a soft liner to shortstop Beau Branton, and set down the next two batters, Jack Veasey and Jordan Peabody on strikeouts to end the threat.
The BlueJackets managed to even the score in the bottom of the fifth against Todd. Alex Junior collected a one out single that started a string of three consecutive base hits by Kitsap that brought in their first run of the night to tie the game at one.
The Bells had a quick answer. Walker Olis, with one out, hit a line drive to dead center field that got over Kyle Nobach's head allowing him to fly around the bases for a stand up triple. The next batter, Patrick McGrath, singled to left to bring in Olis and give the Bells a 2-1 lead.
Todd was removed after six innings, making way for Nate Higa, who returned to the Bells after being sidelined for two weeks from an illness. Higa threw a shut out seventh inning and was replaced by Brice Longanecker (2-1) for the bottom of the eighth.
Longanecker gave up a one out single to Aaron Ping. Before Lonaganecker made his next pitch, Ping was standing at third following a wild pickoff attempt that went down the right field line for a two base error. Two batters later, Jordan Peabody singled in Ping for the tying run to make it 2-2.
Once again the Bells answered right back. With one out in the top of the ninth inning, Aaron Stroosma battled BlueJackets' reliever Holden Capps (0-1) for seven pitches before working a walk. Bronson Larsen on the next pitch doubled down the third base line to put runners on second and third with one out. One pitch later Jesse Kuet brought in Stroosma on a sacrifice fly to center, putting the Bells back ahead 3-2.
Riley Storedahl worked the bottom of the ninth and got the save in a 1-2-3 inning of relief.
“Storedahl shut the door for us,” said Coach Clem. “I was really proud of our guys tonight; these are the wins that show what you’re made of and it sets us up for a sweep.”
With the win, the Bells are now five and half games ahead of the BlueJackets atop the Western Division and have now won four games in a row, the longest active streak in the West Coast League.
Tomorrow the Bells will go for the sweep with a scheduled first pitch of 5:05 p.m. Zach Johnson is slated to take the ball for the Bells. Erik Oas will be on the callat 930 KBAI with a 4:35 pre game show.