BELLINGHAM - The Bellingham Bells had no Whatcom County players in the lineup and only one returnee, but fans figure to get to know them and like them a lot if they continue to field, pitch and hit the way they did in their home opener.
The Bells turned in an entertaining all-around showing in their 9-6 victory over the West Coast League Wenatchee AppleSox on Wednesday, June 12, before an enthusiastic crowd of 1,418 at Joe Martin Field.
The Bells (4-3) turned in no fewer than four plays of Major League Baseball caliber, plus another key play with the bases loaded, in what coach Gary Hatch called "just a tremendous effort" to open a 10-game home stand.
Pitcher Jason Hager, who went the first four innings, and winning pitcher Aaron Sandefur (2-0), who went the final five, benefited from superb fielding to go with generally encouraging mound work. The long but never boring game ended shortly after 10 p.m. and the Bells treated their fans to their usual quota of promotional fun for the kids.
The final fielding gem was a catch by right fielder Walker Olis when he ranged about as far as he could into foul territory for the first out of the eighth inning with two men on base. Sandefur retired the next two men, then wrapped up the win although allowing a two-run homer by Andre Real in the ninth.
Sandefur also benefited from a sensational stop by third baseman Alex Calbick and a fine scoop by first baseman Eric Angerer on the first batter the powerful right-hander faced in the fifth.
Hager got an outstanding stop on a shot to second baseman Ryan Yamane to end the second inning with the bases loaded. The other great plays were a great second-effort grab by shortstop Johnny Farrington, the team's lone returnee in the lineup on Wednesday, and a diving stop by Angerer at first base in the third and fourth innings, respectively.
Designated hitter Michael Annunziata lined a three-run double to the left-center field gap in the first inning and the Bells finished with 12 hits, most of them solid.
Angerer contributed a pair of RBI singles and Farrington hit a sacrifice fly, giving the Bells a 5-3 lead after four innings.
In the sixth, Nate Anderson tripled to right and scored on Yamane's double, followed by Angerer's second RBI single.
Johnny Sewald, an Arizona State University player who made his Bells debut, got his first hit, an RBI single in the seventh. Christopher Beall added a run-scoring hit in the eighth.
Hatch was thrilled with the offense, but then he was gratified by how all of his many newcomers responded to their first road trip.
"It really was a good trip. I'll take 3-3," said Hatch, who is also looking for solid plate production from another newcomer from ASU, catcher R.J. Ybarra. He also played his first game for the Bells and looked like a take-charge guy behind the plate.
"I think we have a good chance to be as good or better than we were last year," said Hatch, whose Bells went 32-22 and lost to Wenatchee in the best of three WCL semifinals. "I'm really enthusiastic over these kids."
The Bells retired 10 batters in a row beginning with the last batter of the third innings, in which the AppleSox scored three runs.
The Bells will face the AppleSox again at 7:05 p.m. Thursday, June 13, at Joe Martin Stadium.
BELLINGHAM 9, WENATCHEE 6
Wenatchee 003 000 012 - 6 6 3
Bellingham 310 102 11X - 9 12 1
WP: Aaron Sandefur. LP: Trevor Lubking. Highlights: Bell - Michael Annuziata 2-5, 2B, 3 RBI; Eric Angerer 2-5, 2 RBI; Alex Calbick 2-4, R; Ryan Yamane 2-3, 2B, RBI, 2R, BB
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.