Young athletes fight for chance to play in all-state series

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 2, 2014 

BELLINGHAM - Meridian's David Anderson will have warm memories of what may be his last game, but the baseball-loving senior feels it's likely he'll eventually spend a lot more time in uniform, as a youth coach and perhaps as a club-level college player.

Anderson - who this season cracked the Trojans' regular starting lineup for the first time as a second baseman/pitcher - gained the win with three innings of scoreless relief in the Whatcom County-dominated Nationals' 3-2 victory over the Americans in the first game of the annual Class 1A/2B/1B state feeder doubleheader.

Lynden Christian shortstop/pitcher Jamie Heystek will have good memories, too, after his solid performance on Monday, June 2, at Joe Martin Field. Heystek earned one of the two top annual honors, the Mal Walton Award, plus a nomination for the all-state series June 14-15 in Yakima.

Heystek said he doesn't plan to play summer ball. But with his batting skills, speed and versatility, he seems likely to find a spot on a college roster if he decides to play and/or gets an offer.

Four other County players earned nominations for all-state consideration - Meridian infielder Jake Plagerman, Meridian outfielder Josh Hosick, Mount Baker outfielder/pitcher Seth Bass and Lummi infielder/catcher Charlie Wilson.

Coupeville pitcher/slugger Ben Etzell, who helped win the second game 3-0, claimed the Al Evans Award. He joined South Whidbey's Nick Bennett and Colton Sterba, Overlake's Matt Kaiser and Friday Harbor's Otis Cooper-West on the 10-player nomination list.

"It was a good experience," Anderson said of his work at Meridian, which included a 2.03 earned-run average as a senior. "It (sitting on the bench as a junior) definitely taught me patience. I just love baseball. And I supported my teammates."

Anderson, who plans to study mechanical engineering at Western Washington University, says he likes "hands-on stuff," which also has long included plenty of baseball. He is well aware that Western has a club baseball team, but he says his top priority is preparing himself for a profitable engineering career.

"I wouldn't say I'm surprised," he said of his winning pitching stint, in which he walked nobody and allowed two harmless hits. "I don't throw very hard, but I can usually put the ball where I want it."

Anderson received significant help when the first batter he faced in the fifth inning popped a soft drive to Heystek's left at shortstop. Heystek, showing his cat-quick moves and alertness, was off with the crack of the ball and made a grab few high school shortstops would have had a good chance to catch.

It's no wonder that the strong-armed Heystek said, "I'm planning to be a hitter and fielder" if he finds a place to play in college - even when asked what he preferred while he warmed up for second game pitching duties.

Anderson's Nationals team, guided by Mount Baker coach Quinn LeSage, broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the seventh inning when Lynden Christian's Drake Likkell beat out an infield hit, advanced on a passed ball and scored when a grounder by Mount Baker's Andrew Zender was booted.

Then it was up to Anderson, who coaxed a groundout and two pop-ups to gain credit for the win.

What would Anderson say if asked for advice by the type of baseball-loving kid he may someday coach?

"Just work hard, be patient and put in a lot of effort," he said. "I had a feeling that as a senior, if I worked hard enough, I would start."

The Nationals, made up almost entirely of Whatcom County players, found the pitching from their small-school counterparts in four counties down south to be awfully tough. The Americans did not allow an earned run in 14 innings and gave up only three hits in each game.

Sterba went four innings in the first game and the multi-talented Etzell pitched three but was tagged with the loss because of the seventh-inning unearned run. In the second game, Cooper-West went three innings and Kaiser threw four while combining for the shutout.

Meridian's Hosick provided two fielding gems. Playing left field in the opener, he raced far to his left for an over-the-shoulder catch that turned what could have been a triple into a sacrifice fly. In the second game, he threw directly from right field to Phillips at catcher to prevent a run.

Plagerman, who played for the Americans even though he's from Meridian, singled twice in the first game. Also playing for the Americans, Lummi's Wilson went 2 for 2 in the first game and Blaine's Myles Peltier went 1 for 3. Zender, who played for both teams, had a hit for the Americans in the second game.

Meridian's David Phillips, Heysteck and Friday Harbor's Casey Rothlisberger had the only hits for the Nationals in the second game. In the opener, Heystek, Likkell and Meridian's Jamison Hodge had the Nationals' three hits.

In the opener, Nationals third baseman Zender got the last out of the second inning when he threw to shortstop Heystek, alertly covering third in a base-running scramble by the Americans.

The best play of the doubleheader, however, may have been a flat-out diving catch by Coupeville center fielder Wade Schaef, stealing a double or triple from Meridian's Hosick to open the sixth inning of the second game.

Other locals who had the honor of playing were Blaine's Chris Doll, Mount Baker's Cody Larson, Nooksack Valley's Eben Rossmiller and Meridian's Kyle Linderman for the Nationals and Lummi's Deion Hoskins for the Americans.

Reach DAVID RASBACH at david.rasbach@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2271.

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