PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles’ power-packed roster leads the West Coast League in multiple categories — with runs scored (100 through Wednesday) hits (143) and home runs (17) — serving as the most impressive statistics.
They also may lead in post-game ice packs for assorted bumps and bruises.
The Lefties are atop the WCL’s hit-by-pitch statistic with 35 hit batters in 17 games — 12 more than the next-highest team, the Cowlitz Black Bears, and far above the league average of 10 hit batters produced by the 10 other WCL franchises.
Port Angeles manager Darren Westergard said his club embraces having to brace for the impact of wayward pitches.
“They are dirtbags,” Westergard said. “They are blue collar. They don’t want to get out of the way. It’s a free base and they’ll take it. If they are going to get hit, they know the guys behind them [in the lineup] has a little juice.
“They are just aggressive and the plate is theirs. That’s their office out there. And if pitchers want to come in on them, they’ll take it, they’ll take first base and it’s on to the next guy up.”
Lefties slugger Kyle Schimpf, whose five home runs lead the WCL, also is tops in the league in getting plunked with six hit-by-pitches.
“Schimpf took four or five of those in the leg and thigh, too,” Westergard said.
One of three Southeast Louisiana products on the team, Schimpf said staying in the batter’s box and taking his lumps is how he’s been taught.
“It’s just the way my college preaches our approach at the plate,” Schimpf said.
“It’s to find any way to get on base. Don’t move your feet is a big thing, I have that drilled in my brain. I wish I would have moved a few times to get some quality at-bats.
“It’s just an approach thing, a mindset thing, just stay in the box. If it hits you it hits you and you get a free bag to go score some runs.”
“We’re kind of feeding off each other right now, some guys are taking it and not moving, we’ve got tough guys here and we’re scoring more runs because we are getting more baserunners.”
Lefties relief pitcher Triston Busse said the pitching staff appreciates seeing the hitters stay in and take some shots.
“We just have tough dudes,” Busse said. “We have grinders. We have guys who aren’t afraid of getting hit and just want to get on base. As a pitcher that’s really awesome to have a lineup that tries to manufacture runs.”
Port Angeles outfielder Matthew Christian is tied for second in hit-by-pitches with five with Victoria catcher Hayden Jaco.
Christian is headed to Campbell University in North Carolina this fall, but said his previous school also had a dig in there mentality in the batters’ box.
“At my junior college it was if you moved out of the way you were getting pulled in the middle of your at-bat, so its ingrained in my head,” Christian said.
He didn’t think he or his teammates were crowding the plate, either.
“Honestly, I think everybody is off the plate a little bit,” Christian said. “I think teams are trying to get too perfect with it because they know we can all take it deep. We’ll take it because the more baserunners we get, somebody will knock them in with this lineup we have. We are 20 to 25 deep and we can smash it.”
Lefties pitching coach Brian Daly thinks the high number of hit batters is a reflection and compliment for the team’s offensive attack.
“I think we have a very intimidating lineup,” Daly said. “We have a lot of guys with power and even our smaller guys have the ability to knock it out of the yard each and every at bat. From an opposition standpoint that can be intimidating, so they don’t want to leave a ball over the plate and let these guys get extended.
“So a lot of times they go in, they can’t locate well enough and that’s led to the number of hit-by-pitches we’ve racked up. That’s a good thing because they are thinking about it the next time that hitter comes to the plate and then we can burn them with the bats and the long ball.”
Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or at [email protected]