PORT ANGELES — It was the Port Angeles Lefties’ most competitive season, but it also left owner Matt Acker wanting more.
The Lefties wrapped up their third season Sunday, a season that saw them seriously threatening for a postseason berth until the final week of the year.
“We want to make strides. It was a good step up for us,” Acker said.
Still, he was disappointed that the team went 22-32 overall in West Coast League play. Records reset to 0-0 for each team to begin the second half of the season. The Lefties were 12-9 at one point in the second half, just three games out of first place, but they finished the season losing seven straight, including six straight to North Division champion Victoria.
If Port Angeles could have won its last six games, it likely would have won the division.
Still, they finished third in the North in the second half.
Acker said he had expectations that this team would compete for playoffs. The Lefties made a concerted effort to balance pitching and offense this year with mixed results.
“I’ve been to [the] playoffs as a coach. I was a little frustrated,” Acker said. “We had too many hitters, period. They were worried about hitting and not defense and communicating.”
One thing that hurt the Lefties down the stretch was a number of their regular players left to begin the fall semester at various colleges.
“Everyone has to deal with that,” Acker said. “That’s communication between coaches and players about [leave dates],” he said.
Average attendance did slip a little. After being in the upper half of attendance in the West Coast League despite Port Angeles being in one of the smallest markets their first two summers, the Lefties dropped to an official average of 995 in attendance per game this season. That left Port Angeles still somewhat in the middle of the pack as they finished eighth as a team in attendance out of 12 teams.
Acker blamed weather for much of that, especially early in the season.
“Fourteen out of our first 18 games had rain,” he said.
The team also had three rainouts this summer, compared to one in the team’s first two seasons combined.
After the first few weeks of the season when the weather finally became warm and sunny, the Lefties’ attendance was equal to or better than the previous two years, Acker said.
Because of scheduling quirks, the Lefties also had fewer home weekend dates. The Lefties had seven weekends in 2017 and six in 2018. They had just four home weekends (out of 11) in 2019.
Acker is hopeful the Lefties can get more home weekends next season, but it is up to the West Coast League, which has a lot of factors to balance when the league makes up the schedule for the year.
“It’s cyclical. The league has a lot of people to please,” Acker said.
Acker said some teams draw well on the weekdays. For the Lefties, their best days were Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays.
One big highlight for the Lefties this year was returning player Matt Christian, who led the WCL in home runs with 12, despite only having 121 at-bats, about 50 or 60 at-bats fewer than the league leaders.
Christian, who plays baseball at Campbell University and was once a quarterback at Murray State, also hit .314, leading the WCL in slugging percentage (if he had had enough at-bats) at .711. He showed good speed with 10 doubles and 13 stolen bases. As an example of how good his season was, if Christian could put up similar numbers in a full MLB season, that would be 50 doubles, 60 home runs and 65 stolen bases.
Acker said two other Lefties that he thinks have a good chance to get drafted by the MLB are pitcher Frankie Scalzo (who pitched early in the season) and Trevor Rosenberg, who like Christian returned to the Lefties for a second season this year.
Scalzo, who attends Grand Canyon University, had a solid ERA of 2.84 with 32 strikeouts and 10 walks in 31 2/3 innings. Rosenberg, who has played at the University of San Diego and UNLV, was the anchor on defense at shortstop.
But, Acker stressed there were at least six or seven other players that he thinks have the chance to get drafted someday.
This year, some recent Port Angeles Roughriders got to play games for the Lefties. The Roughriders Ethan Flodstrom, Jadon Seibel and Carson Jackson all played some games for the Lefties, with Flodstrom hitting a triple and Jackson, who now plays at Shoreline, contributing a home run.
Former Sequim Wolves player Evan Hurn, now at Marshall University, also played a number of games for Port Angeles. He hit two home runs and seven doubles for the Lefties.
Acker said it’s possible more local kids could play for the Lefties, but it has to be a right fit to make the leap from small-town high school to going up against pitchers from Division I schools.
“It has to be a right situation. They have to understand their role. I’ve seen [local kids] go really right and go really wrong. And if it goes really wrong, it’s bad for the athlete and the team,” Acker said. “You have to make sure you’re putting them in a positive situation.”