BELLINGHAM - The next challenge in sports for Bellingham athlete Ryan Fox figures to be the exceptionally tough task of scoring basketball tickets at hoop-crazed Gonzaga University.
Lynden's Kody Ames, meanwhile, doesn't know whether pitching or hitting will be his first college opportunity in baseball, but he says he'll be happy with either duty no matter where he winds up playing.
Fox, perhaps playing his last baseball game, and Ames, both pitching and batting in classy fashion, each had two hits among the total of only eight hits by Whatcom County players in the Class 3A/2A Northwest Regional feeder games.
Ames enjoyed the good fortune of playing for the Americans, who were otherwise made up primarily of players south of Whatcom County, as they swept the Nationals 7-4 and 2-0 in eight-inning games on Wednesday, June 4, at Joe Martin Stadium.
Ames earned a save in the opener, pitching the final three innings without allowing an earned run, and lined a pair of singles in the second game. Fox, who played only the first game, had two solid singles and made one of the defensive gems of the day with a diving catch in foul territory in left field.
There was another noteworthy effort by a local player, but he switched teams at the break between games to accomplish it. Ferndale's Brady Bauthues, who played for the Nationals in the opener, gained a save with three scoreless innings for the Americans in the second game.
Of the 11 players nominated to be considered for inclusion on the all-state series rosters for action in Yakima on June 14-15, the only selections from Whatcom County were Bellingham outfielder Oscar White, Sehome pitcher/outfielder Josh Zavisubin and Squalicum outfielder Landon Tripp.
Zavisubin earned the annual Mal Walton Award, which goes to a Whatcom County player. Archibishop Murphy's Ryan Dorney won the Al Evans Award for excellence by a southern player.
Dorney hit the only homer in either game - a mighty blast over the right field fence in the opener - as the players showed how to hustle and played the doubleheader in only 3 hours and 40 minutes, which included a 20-minute break between games along with five double plays in the second game.
The eight others nominated for all-state series consideration were Dorney; Sedro-Woolley's Jackson Conn, Austin Skaakup and Collin Hannan; Cedarcrest's Colton Sandifer and Nick Bowersock, Anacortes' Jared Douglas and Granite Falls' Riley Larson.
Conn, who performed like a real warrior, accomplished the noteworthy feat of catching both eight-inning games and looking solid in the process. When he lined his first hit on his last chance in the doubleheader, he drew some of the largest cheers of the night.
"I was really happy to have a chance to make that diving catch, because I had not made one all season," said Bellingham's Fox, an outfielder who shifted to shortstop for much of his senior season because of a teammate's injury. His two hits were no surprise - the program listed his batting average as .371.
Fox said he fell in love with Gonzaga on a weekend campus trip in April for students already officially accepted there. He'll especially appreciate basketball among the Zags fanatics because he also played well in that sport for the Red Raiders.
"I'll be going to all the games, if I can get tickets," said Fox, a personable student who plans to major in engineering and expects to limit his sports to intramurals or club competition.
Fox's Bellingham teammate White turned in the game's other fielding gem - a monster throw from medium right field to nail a runner at third base without needing to hit a relay man.
Ames, who plans to both hit and pitch for the Skagit Sox Senior American Legion team, said several community colleges have expressed interest.
The versatile 6-foot-5 athlete, a right-handed pitcher but a natural left-hander at bat and a skilled first baseman, said one dream might be to serve as that college rarity - a good left-handed pinch-hitter.
"That would be awesome," the affable Ames said with a wide smile. "I'd love to get the chance to hit in college if I become a (fulltime) pitcher. I'm open to either job."
Ames went 6-2 with a 2.18 earned-run average and batted .372 for the Lions. His effective play in the feeder doubleheader displayed all of his skills well, but the same could be said of so many of the players nominated for all-star consideration.
Ames, who said he may eventually study marketing at the university level, said he wants to work hard enough to successfully sell his baseball skills to the right four-year college after playing community college ball. With his frame, the big guy figures to get a good look.
In the first game, the only Whatcom County players with hits were Fox with two and Zavisubin with one for the Nationals, although Ames lined a hard sacrifice fly for the Americans.
In the second game, Ames led Whatcom batters with his two hard singles, while Sehome's Drew Lomsdalen and Zavisubin plus Lynden's Cameron Wainwright also slammed hits. Lynden's Christian Mouat pitched two scoreless innings in the second game.
Ames, the victim of two infield errors while allowing two unearned runs in the last inning of the opener, kept batters off balance. He chalked up his nine outs on seven pop-ups and harmless fly balls along with one strikeout and a grounder to him.
Other locals who played in the all-star series were Ferndale's Pete Pennylegion, Joey Akers and Kyle Baker and Squalicum's Ben Johnson.