BELLINGHAM - It was home, sweet home for six former Whatcom County baseball players. Well, not quite.
The Everett Merchants marched into Joe Martin Stadium on Tuesday, June 24, with several former local stars, hoping to get the best of the hometown team in a friendly, non-league contest.
Instead, the Bells welcomed back the Bellingham talent with a heated 5-0 defeat.
The six former athletes - Ferndale's Jake Frost, Jeff Frost and Cooper Jansen, Meridian's Chase Heslep, Bellingham's Matt Richard and Sehome's Brice Longanecker - were all playing for the first time in front of the Bellingham crowd as Merchants.
"I've been looking forward to this game for awhile now," catcher Jake Frost said. "We may not be hometown, but it's my hometown."
The local players have contributed a ton to the Merchants. Jake Frost is batting .385 and said he's hitting "the best he has in four years." His brother, Jeff, has a 3.85 earned run average over seven innings. Heslep has eight strikeouts in eight innings pitched. Richard has thrown nine innings with a 1.00 ERA.
Jansen has topped them all this season with a 0.75 ERA over 12 innings with two wins.
"It's great to be back here. A lot of good memories at this field." Jansen said. "I'm feeling pretty good. I got to play against the Everett Aquasox which was cool. It's been a really good experience playing in Everett."
As for Longanecker, he was the starting pitcher in Tuesday night's game, throwing five innings, allowing three earned runs and taking the loss on the night. He did strikeout three.
The Bells certainly didn't make it easy on him.
Left fielder Lou Della Fera got hit by a pitch in the opening at bat and then scored on an RBI double by Dallas Carroll two batters later.
Carroll almost scored on a would-be RBI single by designated hitter Dylan Garcia, but he was tagged out at the plate by Everett catcher Mark Medalia.
"I think it was pretty big," Della Fera said. "I wanted to start the game off right, just trying to get on. The run was a benefit. It was a good start for us."
Longanecker settled down after that, allowing only two hits over the next four innings.
It got rough for Longanecker in the sixth inning when first baseman Scott Heath led off with a single and Carroll followed it up with his second hit of the night. An error on a grounder by Garcia loaded the bases.
That was it for Longanecker's night, as he got relieved by Jeff Larabee, who struck out right fielder Walker Olis to get the first out of the inning.
Then came the highlight of the night. With the bases loaded and one out, Colby Woodmansee stepped up to the plate and crushed a ball at least 360 feet over the left field wall, the Bells second consecutive game with a grand slam. Heath hit a Slam on Sunday against the Bend Elks.
"That's a big part of our team," Della Fera said. "To come in and hit a grand slam like that was huge. That just shows the composure of our team."
In between innings after the grand slam, things got heated between the two teams. It is unclear what exactly happened, but the Everett third base coach and Woodmansee along with other Bells infielders got into a screaming match.
Bellingham coach Jeff James went out to discuss the issue with the umpire and Everett coach Harold Pyatte was furious. Both sides settled down after minutes and play resumed.
"I have no comment on that," James said after the game.
On the defensive side, the Bells were just as efficient.
Eder Erives got the start and retired his first 11 batters before allowing a hit to third baseman Josh Potter. He got pulled in the fourth to conserve his arm and get other pitchers some innings.
"With off days on either side of non-league games, we want to use it as a chance to get everyone their work," James said. "But we also want to get their pitch count down, get them fresh, work on some things and get them ready for Friday."
He was relieved by Moises Ceja, who pitched a perfect fifth and then Seth Martinez, who also was perfect in the sixth.
Burk Fitzpatrick came in and allowed only one hit and then hard-throwing Hever Bueno came in much to the delight of the Joe Martin crowd.
He struggled with his command at times, walking two and allowing a hit, but he got two strikeouts in two innings to hold the 5-0 lead.
"They came out and played hard," James said. "The pitchers did a great job. We got a chance to get everyone some innings."
Carroll was 2 for 2 with two walks and an RBI on the night and Olis was 2 for 4 for the only multi-hit performers of the night.
The only former Whatcom County athletes that got playing time were Jake Frost, who went 0 for 1 after coming in late in the game, and Longanecker.
The Bells get back to action with another non-league game at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, June 25, at Joe Martin Field.
Reach Joshua Hart by email at email@example.com or by phone at 360-715-2851.
Bellingham 5, Everett 0
Everett 000 000 000 -- 0 3 1
Bellingham 100 004 00x -- 5 8 1
WP- Eder Erives. LP - Brice Longanecker. Highlights: Bellingham - Lou Della Fera 0-2, HBP, BB, R; Scott Heath 1-4, R; Dallas Carroll 2-2, 2B, 2 BB, RBI, R; Dylan Garcia 1-3, R; Walker Olis 2-4; Colby Woodmansee 1-3, HR, 4 RBI; Conner Switzer 1-2.