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Young guns squeak by Friday Harbor alumni, 7-6
First-ever game draws two dozen grads, big crowd
They couldn’t have asked for better weather, or for better brownies.
And there was just enough rust around the edges and oddball plays to remind the legion of fans who turned out for the first-ever Friday Harbor baseball alumni game that this one was just for fun.
Still, if the contests to come are anything like the inaugural game, the annual clash between the Wolverines of the past and the present could soon be the hottest ticket in town.
Top of the ninth. Score tied. Game up for grabs and four outs to go. It doesn’t get any better than that on the baseball diamond.
“It’d great to have one in the pre-season too,” said an exuberant John Cornell, a 2001 graduate and stalwart on the ‘99 squad that took second at State.
Nearly two dozen former Wolverines and a dozen from the team’s current roster squared off Saturday at Hartman Field to help raise money for the high school baseball program. This year the team tallied another league championship and fifth-place finish at State.
Sponsored by the Friday Harbor Baseball Booster Club, the event generated several thousand dollars in cash and donations through a silent auction and the sale of merchandise, authentic Friday Harbor baseball caps and a whole lot of hot dogs, hamburgers and chips.
“I think that all the guys had a really great time,” said Steve Cutting of the Booster Club, who also doubled as master of ceremonies for the game. “We’re already thinking about what kind of changes we might make for next year.”
The alumni team erased an early one-run deficit thanks to a three-run homer in the third inning by Jacob Ross. Ross, a 2002 graduate, ignited a six-run scorefest by swatting a fly ball that cleared the right field fence by just a couple of feet. The alumns scored three more in the third to take a commanding 6-1 lead.
At 284 feet, the right field fence at Hartman Field may be short, but Ross shrugged off all cracks about his 286-foot home run “blast”.
“It’s not my fault they moved the fence in,” he quipped.
Former team manager Tyler Brow brought the crowd to its feet in the bottom half of the fourth when he smacked a single up the third base line. But Brow, a 2007 graduate, tip-toed off the field with embarrassed grin after being picked off first base during the next at-bat by pitcher Shawn Cutting.
The high school team rallied in the field and at the plate at the game wore on. With a lineup peppered with past Wolverine heavyweights, including collegiate ballplayers Fletcher Vynne, Peter Shanks and Matthew Rothlisberger, the young guns tallied two in the sixth and another two in the seventh. They evened the score at 6-6 in the top of the ninth when Shanks stole home on a passed ball.
“My wheels have never been a deciding factor in any game until now,” he noted
Down to its last out, the high schoolers scored what proved to be the game-winning run as Justin James took off from first base and got caught in a rundown between first and second just long enough to allow Albert Strasser to dash home from third. Alumni pitcher Forest Hartford, a 2000 graduate, had second thoughts about paying too much attention to James and not enough to Strasser on third.
“I shouldn’t have done that,” Hartford said. “I should’ve just let him go.”
Vynne, coaching third for the high school team, was cagey when asked whether sending James worked just like the team drew it up on the board.
“Well, kind of,” he said.
Wolverine Head Coach Rich Warin said money raised at the event will help cover the cost of purchasing new maintenance equipment for the fields and the cost of keeping the ballpark watered.
While the need to raise cash can’t be ignored, Warin said that the commaderie of the Wolverine baseball family and a little friendly competition is what the spirit of the alumni game is truly about.
“I like to think of it as a ‘Fun Raiser,’ ” Warin said.
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