By Jacob Noseworthy
The 2017 iteration of the annual Grand Forks International baseball tournament began with three games on Tuesday.
The first two games of the day featured GFI newcomers as the Kitsap BlueJackets took on the Okanagan Athletics and the Alaska Goldpanners challenged the Highline Bears, while tournament veterans, the Westchase Express and West Coast Guns, played under the lights in the final game of the night.
Kitsap BlueJackets 18 at Okanagan Athletics 3
W: Ben Tinnel L: Bo Meiklejohn Home Plate Umpire: Rhonda Pauls
Although the crowd at James Donaldson Park cheered passionately for the Canadian Okanagan Athletics, it was clear from the start that the game was dominated by the Kitsap BlueJackets, as the Washington side went up 8-0 in the top of the first inning.
After increasing their lead to 10-0 in the second, 16-2 in the fifth, and finally 18-3 in the sixth inning, Kitsap proved in their first appearance at the GFI that they had come to play.
Isaac Wersland, the designated hitter for the BlueJackets, was the obvious standout in the game as the slugger hit two home runs and earned four RBIs in his four appearances at the plate.
While the game was a mostly one-sided affair, ending after seven innings due to the mercy rule, Okanagan still put on an entertaining display for their new and old fans watching.
Allowing eight runs in the first half inning can be demoralizing for a team, but the Athletics fought back to put three runs on the board in their GFI debut.
Highline Bears 0 at Alaska Goldpanners 11
W: Alex Vesia L: Ian Turner Home Plate Umpire: Scott Eckardt
Although early in the day rumours swirled around the park that the Seattle-based Highline Bears were going to be late for their 5 p.m. game, the GFI newcomers were on time and ready to play.
Unfortunately for the Bears, the storied Alaska Goldpanners, with six National Baseball Congress World Series titles to their name, were also ready as they routed Highline 11-0 in six and a half innings of baseball.
Costly errors from the Bears combined with the Goldpanners’ ability to string together hits, especially in their five run third inning, contributed to Alaska’s big win.
Alaska’s centre fielder, Mitch Berryhill, shone in the win with two doubles, a lead-off triple in the bottom of the fourth, and a team-leading three RBI performance.
Westchase Express 8 at West Coast Guns 4
W: Fernando Martinez L: Wyatt Haccou Home Plate Umpire: Joe Mallinson
The marquee match up of the day featured 2016 semifinalist West Coast Guns and 2016 quarterfinalist Westchase Express with both teams looking to get back to the Money Round in the difficult Division 1 also featuring reigning champion Seattle Studs and 2016 runner-up Burnaby Bulldogs.
The game got off to a close start with the score deadlocked at three after two innings of strong baseball by both sides.
Westchase seemed to take control of the game from the third inning on, however, as the Express went on a 5-1 run through the latter innings, capped off with a Carlos Andrade solo home run in the ninth over the right field fence to give Westchase the 8-4 victory.
Although the runs slowed from the fourth inning on, strong defence from both teams kept the game close and entertaining for the late-night crowd.
Home run hitter Andrade was notable scoring three times and earning a .400 batting average for the game.