By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — Sequim’s Evan Hurn was riding high in his first semester as a member of the Marshall University Thundering Herd baseball program in Huntington, W.V.
A junior transfer after playing for two seasons coming out of Sequim at Edmonds Community College, Hurn posted the first 4.0 grade point average of his academic career fall semester and came back from a ligament tear in his thumb suffered in 2018, to earn a starting spot at the highest level of collegiate baseball, NCAA Division I.
Hurn credited mandatory six-hour-a-week study hall sessions for helping him hit the books.
Life on and off the diamond got a little more complicated once the season started for Hurn, who is spending his summer back home playing ball for the Port Angeles Lefties — on the same well-tended Civic Field turf where he competed against the Port Angeles Roughriders in the spring and starred for Wilder Baseball Club in the summer.
“There was a lot of adversity this year,” Hurn said. “I started off as a starter and went 0 for 15. That kinda diminished my confidence a little bit. Then about midway through the season my little sister Sophia was diagnosed with cancer (leukemia).”
If there’s any silver lining to be found in childhood cancer, Hurn said Sophia has the more treatable and beatable form of the disease.
“She has more chemotherapy treatment coming up and will be hospitalized over there [at Seattle Children’s Hospital] until December,” Hurn said.
“My dad [Robert] is working every hour he can and the minute he’s not working he’s driving to the ferry to go see her and take care of her.
“It’s a really tough situation and being over in West Virginia and not able to do anything about it really sucked, but I’m here now.”
The relief is evident on Hurn’s face when he describes how happy he was to return home and see Sophia in person.
“I hopped off the plane and went straight to see her,” Hurn said. “My girlfriend (former Sequim softball standout McKenzie Bentz) and I spent all day with her. Yeah, gave her a big hug.
“She just had her levels tested to where she can go out in public now. She still can’t be more than an hour away from the hospital right now, so I don’t think she’ll be able to get over here this summer but I’m going to try and go see her as much as possible.”
A GoFundMe account to help the Hurn family has been established at www.gofundme.com/1lp746171c.
Nearly 3,000 miles away from home in Huntington — a town that many consider the epicenter of the country’s opiate addiction nightmare — and missing his family and his girlfriend all while trying to regain his hitting stroke against Division I pitchers and keep up with his academics — Hurn was lifted up by his Herd family.
“It was very difficult, especially the first few days and weeks but baseball is what really helped me take my mind off of it,” Hurn said. My teammates were so helpful. Every single person on the team told me they were there for me from the players to the coaches to the equipment manager Zac [Littleton].”
Like many prep, college and professional teams, Marshall has scheduled a Cancer Awareness Weekend and Hurn said the team had worn hats that reflect how cancer had impacted members of their own families.
Littleton designed a hat with an orange ribbon design, the color used to raise awareness of the fight against leukemia with Sophia’s name in script lettering.
Something a little different this year for our Cancer Awareness Weekend. Our whole team will be wearing this hat. @evanhurn, know that your #HerdFamily’s thoughts and prayer are with Sophia and your entire family. pic.twitter.com/i3fSCzeU1h
— Marshall Equipment (@HerdEquipment) April 12, 2019
“Hurn is one of my best friends here and it just [hurt] me when I heard the news,” Marshall pitcher Joshua Shapiro said in article in the (Huntington) Herald-Dispatch. “We all have his back and will always have his back, so just being out here and any way we can support him — whether it is winning or off the field — it’s great to do.”
“The whole team was behind me — the whole program and school were behind me,” Hurn said. “The Herd is a family. They made it easier.”
While the final season statistics weren’t what he was hoping for, Hurn said his hitting improved as the season progressed, especially during Conference USA play.
— Marshall Baseball (@HerdBaseball) April 27, 2019
That’s what he’ll keep focusing on this summer with the Lefties.
“Getting [at-bats], getting my hack off has been what I’ve focused on so far,” Hurn said. “I’ve felt really comfortable up there at the plate. It was towards the end of the [college] season that I felt more relaxed, more confident. Being up here, seeing pitches, having AB’s every day and getting into a groove. My main focus will be swinging at good pitches and focusing on my mental game.”
Hurn rapped a double in Wednesday’s win and drove in a run in another victory Thursday at Portland in his first series with the Lefties.
He followed up with a two-run home run and a double in Friday night’s Civic Field homecoming.
“I’ve found a few barrels and I’ve been wanting to build off that,” Hurn said.
While pitching batting practice, Lefties manager Darren Westergard interjected at that point in the conversation.
“The left on left was great,” Westergard said of Hurn, a left-handed hitter hitting that double off of a left-handed pitcher.
It’s Hurn’s second trip through the West Coast League. He played for Bellingham in 2017 but sat out last summer after a thumb injury. He credits that summer on the Bells with instilling belief in himself.
A couple of his Bellingham teammates were selected last week in the Major League Baseball Draft.
“Seeing those D-I athletes and probably future major leaguers showed me that I did belong there and I could make it to the D-I level,” Hurn said. “I think it kind of gave me confidence and made the game slower.”
At the close of the summer, Hurn will head back to Huntington for his senior season and continue to mark off states while playing in the vast geographic footprint of Conference USA as baseball continues to take him places.
“We started in Orlando playing on spring training fields and we went from Virginia Beach, Virginia all the way to Birmingham Alabama, Hattiesburg Mississippi.
“Next year we will go to Dallas and Nashville.
“I’ve gone to more states in the past eight months than I ever had in my life.”
Hurn marvels at the path he’s taken since graduating from Sequim in 2016.