BELLINGHAM - John Albert, Ben Wilson, Travis Boyd and Eric Ho are getting the band back together this summer with the Bellingham Post 7 American Senior Legion baseball team.
The Sehome alums, who helped the Mariners reach the Class 2A state championship game in 2011, are part of a core group of returning players from the Post 7 team that won the American Senior Legion state title last August.
"It's kind of neat getting together with those guys again," said Albert, who recently completed his freshman season playing for Hawaii-Pacific. "It was kind of just like it used to be, with Travis being my catcher, and him being goofy behind the plate."
Despite the team's familiarity with one another, Bellingham got off to a bit of a "goofy" start on Thursday, June 21, during the first day of the Bellingham Senior American Legion Invitational. Thanks to five errors in the first four innings, Bellingham twice found itself trailing against a Spokane Bandits team it beat in the Legion state championship game last August.
But Albert's composure on the mound and a timely two-out, bases-loaded double by Wilson sparked Bellingham to a 7-3 victory at Joe Martin Field.
"Against a good team like that, you can't afford to make mistakes like we did early on," Bellingham coach Steve Slesk said. "John Albert just pitched a terrific game, and I think we played a bit more aggressive late in the game. Early on, we were watching fastballs down the middle, even when the count was 2-0 or 3-1. But we started to be a bit more aggressive and taking advantage of those opportunities late in the game."
The hit that seemed to help Post 7 settle in and play its game effectively was Wilson's fourth-inning double, which chased home Albert and Ho after they had reached on a two-out single and walk, respectively, and erased what was a 3-2 deficit.
"I've been struggling with the bat early this summer," Wilson said. "I've been trying to look to go the other way to help myself. When I got down 0-2, I knew he was probably going to throw me either a fastball or a curveball. When I saw it was a fastball, I told myself, 'I don't want to mess this up and get in a deeper hole' - not that it could really get that much worse. I just wanted to be able to do something with the pitch and help my team."
That's an opportunity Wilson has been waiting for for quite some time.
Wilson, who recently completed his freshman year at Washington State, did not play baseball during the spring.
"It's something I've regretted," Wilson said. "I missed the game. I missed being out here with guys like this and being part of the team. It's almost like I had too much time on my hands this spring. I was so excited to get back here and to play with these guys this summer."
Wilson said he plans to try out for the Cougars next spring, but for now, he's happy playing with Albert and the rest of the teammates he's used to taking the field with.
He's obviously not the only one enjoying the opportunity.
"This is something I've been looking forward to," Albert said. "College is a lot of fun, but there aren't those guys that you know you can count on when you first get there. Here, there are 10 to 15 core guys you know you can count on, and it's fun playing with them."
Slesk said Albert and the rest of the college players who are back on this year's roster have made a big impact on the team.
"None of those guys are prima donnas," Slesk said. "They're just not those kind of guys. They're leaders for this team. They're guys that come out to practice and work hard and dive for balls, and the younger guys on this team see that. They're willing to work for this team."
Albert definitely showed what he can do for the team on Thursday. In addition to going 3 for 3 and reaching base all four times he stepped to the plate and scoring three runs, he limited Spokane to five hits and two walks while striking out six. He was very efficient with his pitches, going the distance on 92 pitches - 65 of which were strikes.
He did that despite some shaky defense behind him, as two of the three runs he allowed were unearned.
"I think it's going to take some time for us to settle in defensively," Albert said. "That's what happens when you have a team that hasn't played together for a while - you're kind of living on the edge. Errors are going to happen, no matter what level you're playing at. As a pitcher, you just have to put it out of your mind and do your job."
Once he was given a lead, Albert allowed only two more base runners, one of which he erased with a pickoff.
Bellingham added three insurance runs in the sixth on Ho's bases-loaded single up the middle and Tanner Olson's two-run single.
Post 7 returns to action at 8 p.m. Friday, June 22, with a game against Wenatchee, before wrapping up the pool play portion of the tournament with games against Trail, B.C. (12:30 p.m.) and Seattle Selects (3 p.m.) on Saturday, June 23. The semifinals and championship game for the tournament are scheduled for Sunday, June 24.
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2271.
BELLINGHAM 7, SPOKANE 3
Spokane 020 100 0 - 3 5 0
Bellingham 011 203 x - 7 8 5
WP: John Albert. LP: Karver Pate. Highlights: Spokane: Blake Bozett 2-4, RBI; Jamie Bledsoe 2-3. Bellingham: John Albert 3- 3, 3 R, 2B; Ben Wilson 2-4, 2 RBI, 2B; Tanner Olson 1-4, 2 RBI.
Reach DAVID RASBACH firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.