A coach can only glean so much information about a team with one game and less than a week of practice complete.
But what the Bellingham Bells offered coach Jeff James and the packed house at Joe Martin Stadium for the club’s season opener was plenty of reason for optimism.
Bellingham starter Kyle Rossman and reliever Riley Storedahl turned in a combined eight innings of one-run ball, the Bells received some timely hitting and Bellingham’s title defense started with win No. 1, a 4-3 West Coast League win over Kitsap on Friday, June 5.
“They played with good energy,” James said. “There was definitely some buzz around the stadium, and they were very excited to play, and it was cool seeing their faces to really realize the support they were going to get.”
Rossman went five innings, giving up seven hits and worked his way out of a fourth-inning, bases-loaded one-out jam, but it was Storedahl who truly ignited the crowd with his strikeout ability in relief.
The Edmonds Community College product punched out the first five batters he faced and pitched the minimum during the sixth through eighth while nursing a two- and three-run lead.
“One, we learned they are strike throwers,” James said of his pitching staff Friday. “There weren’t a lot of freebees on our side, which is huge in the game of baseball. We like their demeanor. We love their competitiveness.”
Bellingham was fortunate to tie the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the third after Ben Welch was able to score after successfully finding his way out of a pickle between third and home.
That set the stage for designated hitter Alex Gagano’s clutch two-out, RBI single in the bottom half of the fourth. Galgano sent a ball into right field, scoring Jordan Schlehuber to give the Bells a 2-1 advantage.
Schlehuber led Bellingham at the plate, going 3 for 4 with a run scored and what turned out to be a paramount two-out RBI single in the bottom half of the seventh.
The Bells led 3-1 before Schlehuber scored teammate Walker Olis on a line drive single into left.
“Anytime you can get two-out RBIs it’s huge,” James said, “and we got a couple clutch hits tonight by Jordan (Schlehuber) and Galgano, which was big for us.”
Bellingham’s Brian Way entered the ninth looking for the save guarding a 4-1 lead, but the game became tight after Way yielded a single followed by a double to open the inning.
Kitsap, with runners at second and third and no outs, recorded back-to-back RBI groundouts to trim Bellingham’s lead to 4-3, and with two outs and no one on, Way struck out Kitsap’s Alex Junior on a 3-2 pitch to end the game.
Bells returning shortstop Dustin Breshears went 2 for 5, and Larsen was 2 for 4 at the plate. Welch was 1 for 3 with a double and a run scored.
Reach Andrew Lang at 360-756-2862 or email@example.com. Read the Sports Blog at bellinghamherald.com/sports-blog. Follow him on Twitter at @BhamSports and on Facebook at WhatcomCountySports.
Bellingham 4, Kitsap 3
WP: Kyle Rossman (1-0). LP: Cameron Weinberg (0-1). S: Brian Way (1). Highlights: Bellingham: Jordan Schlehuber 3-4, R, RBI; Dustin Breshears 2-5; Bronson Larsen 2-4, R. Kitsap: Spencer Dunlap 2-3, R, BB; Joe Galindo 2-4, 2B; Colby Brown 1-4, RBI.
KITSAP AT BELLINGHAM
When: 7:05 p.m.
Saturday, June 6