PORT ANGELES — The return of Lefties baseball to Civic Field was a walk in the park early for the hometown squad in a 9-6 win over the Highline Bears on Tuesday night.
The faces of smiling fans returned to Civic after a nearly two-year absence for the summer wood-bat baseball squad.
“Absolutely, it was great to see people in general,” Lefties coach/owner Matt Acker said. “We were appropriate and safe, and it was really nice to see folks out like that again at the ballpark.”
The sunny and 75-degree weather at first pitch didn’t hurt.
“That’s what I ordered up, and it came,” Acker joked.
Port Angeles opened up a 4-0 lead after one inning, taking advantage of four walks, a hit batter and a leadoff broken-bat infield single by Cal’s Trevor Tishenkel.
It wasn’t all small ball.
Lefties’ shortstop Shea Thomas bombed a three-run home run to center field in the bottom of the sixth to put the Lefties up 9-0, a lead that remained until the Bears rallied in the final two frames.
“I didn’t know him coming up before, but he’s from the same part of Olympia as I am, went to the elementary school my mom taught at, same high school, and his college coach is [Scott] Kelly,” Acker said of Thomas. “So to play that position for those programs, I had an idea that he would have some talent, and he does.”
No. 3 hitter Garrett Lake and cleanup hitter Coleman Schmidt each scored three runs.
“Garrett Lake, he’s older; he’s been a middle-order hitter for a few seasons now [at Purdue-Fort Wayne], and this is his chance to get some new eyes on him and face some new competition out west,” Acker said. “He’s a 1-3 hitter [in the lineup] for sure.
“Schmidt hit in the middle of the order at St. Mary’s, and he’s going to be a force for them. I had a good feeling watching him hit BP [Monday].”
Port Angeles received strong pitching performances from lefty starter Justin Miller of Purdue-Fort Wayne, who went three scoreless innings while striking out five, and left-hander Kaden Lewis, who also threw three clean innings in relief.
Lewis showcased a strong pickoff move to first base, tossing out a Bear.
“He has a great pickoff move; he’s a competitor, and he was down in the zone,” Acker said. “He picked that kid off, and everybody had to shorten up on him at the plate.”
Highline scored one in the eighth and pushed across five in the ninth against Lefties reliever Sakemi Sato to make the game interesting late, including a two-run shot to left field by Nate Blocker, before Sato recorded the final two outs.
Port Angeles hosts Highline again tonight at 6:35 p.m. and will head to Bellingham to face the Bells Friday through Sunday in the first West Coast League series of the season.
Acker, a former head coach at Green River Community College and with the Kitsap BlueJackets, returned to managerial duties Tuesday night.
“I’ve done more managing in my lifetime than I have spent as an owner,” Acker said.
But the transition was still difficult, especially on opening night when there are a million late-breaking issues popping up.
“There’s not much you can do, but thankfully, I have really strong people around me, a community that understands what we are doing, and friends and family that supports the decision,” Acker said. “Most importantly, a family that stepped up and took on huge roles; my wife [Kira] and both my boys [Kade and Kole] are helping out, and they all wanted me to go back to coaching.”
The return of sweet-swinging Port Angeles standout Ethan Flodstrom will be delayed for a few weeks due to a broken foot.
Flodstrom said Tuesday he expects to be back on the field in three weeks. Flodstrom took cuts in the batting cage with a boot on his foot and said he was excited to be back at Civic Field and glad to be home for the summer.
“It’s a little easier for me; I can live at home with my parents and work a little bit and not have to have a host family,” Flodstrom said.
Acker is looking forward to his debut but doesn’t want Flodstrom to push it.
“I just told him you do everything everybody else does, except for the things you don’t feel comfortable with or just don’t think you can right now,” Acker said. “But he will help us out.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected] news.com.