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BlueJackets stay within reach of Bend in playoff race | Baseball
Team also looks to add third affiliate team next season
The Kitsap BlueJackets are hoping a rising wind will have them coming up around the Bend.
And if last week’s series win on the road against Spokane is any indication, the Jackets may be prepared to do just that.
Kitsap (18-18) topped Spokane in two straight games Sunday and Monday, winning 12-6 and 8-4, respectively, after dropping the opener last Saturday, 10-4, against the RiverHawks (17-18).
The wins keep Kitsap within reach of Bend (Ore.) for the final playoff spot in the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League’s West Division.
The top two teams from both divisions play for the division crown before meeting for the league championship.
The wins also ended Kitsap’s last regular-season road trip on a high note.
“Hopefully we’ll have another road trip in the postseason,” BlueJackets Coach Matt Acker said.
The wins haven’t come easy.
In addition to nagging injuries sustained by fielders Max Kwan, Jake Owens, Jordan Shadle, Cody Bartlett, Aaron Johnson, Chris Dupart and pitchers Zach Miller and Mike Wolford, Acker said the team has learned that Wolford and fellow closer Connor Whalen will be out for the remainder of the season with shoulder injuries.
Outfielder Justin Shultz also is done for the year. Add to that the departure of pitcher Alec Reichle to be with his newborn baby and the Jackets have been shifting lineups a lot of late.
“This year’s team has had injury after injury after injury,” Acker said. “It’s just ungodly. The funny thing is I went through it in the college season this year, too.”
But those physical losses have turned into mental gains, as the Jackets have stayed in the race despite the numerous injuries.
It’s an attitude Acker said he hopes will attract more fans to the ballpark during the stretch run.
“I’d like to see some kind of rallying in the community,” Acker said. “These kids are fighting all the way to the end. These kids are representing the area very well.”
It’s also opened roster spots for players such as pitchers Bryce Bonell, Kyle Baskett, David Macey and Trey Watt (Baskett and Watt were called up earlier in the season).
Infielder Shane Kessell also joined the Jackets.
With all the change, Acker said it only further speaks to the character of this year’s squad.
“It’s a charismatic group of kids that returned, and the kind of kids we want to come here,” Acker said. “We’re not only looking for talent, but for a certain kind of kid.”
After the BlueJackets wrap up a three-game nonleague series with affiliate Tacoma today at 7 p.m. at Lobe Fields at the Fairgrounds, the Jackets are off two days before closing out the season at home first against Bend and then against Spokane.
“We’re in a good position,” Acker said. “We just need to take care of what we can take care of and control what we can control.”
The West Division playoffs begin Aug. 12 with either Bend or Kitsap traveling to Corvallis, which at 24-9 has all but officially locked up the regular-season division title. Wenatchee leads the East Division at 18-15.
• New affiliate in the works
BlueJackets coach Matt Acker said Thursday the team hopes to add a third affiliate team next season. The West Seattle Steelheads would join the Tacoma Cardinals and Olympia Athletics as Kitsap affiliates, bringing the total number of affiliate teams under WCCBL parent clubs to five.
“There’s a new push on the affiliate teams from the league,” said Acker, adding that league president Ken Wilson is a proponent of the teams. “They want to see it go. They’re pumped about it.”
The team’s namesake, the Seattle Steelheads, were part of the West Coast Negro Baseball League in 1946, the league’s only year.
Acker said he hopes to primarily fill that roster with players from Olympic College, allowing the OC players to get more game time, as well.
“(OC and Kitsap coach Ryan) Parker have had kids on the team,” Acker said. “But we haven’t had a ton of them.”
He said 20 kids are already on a waiting list for that team, which could initially reach 40-45 players. Additionally, Acker said he hopes to have home fields for the affiliates by next season as well.