Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

Matt Hilborn pulls off a web gem. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Matt Hilborn often reminded me of Wiley Hesselgrave.

The pair crossed paths at Coupeville High School very briefly, with the former playing his freshman season of football as the latter wrapped up his senior campaign.

Other than that they weren’t on the same teams, as Hesselgrave played basketball, while Hilborn opted for baseball.

But both guys, the CHS Class of 2016 one — among the most highly-respected Wolf athletes of the modern era — and the Class of 2019 one, always struck me as being very similar in how they approached their time repping Cow Town.

They were old-school players putting in work during a new-school time frame, dudes who showed up to practice and games with lunchbox seemingly in hand, ready to work.

Neither wasted much time on social media, and neither wasted much time flexing between plays.

Hilborn, like Hesselgrave, let his actions speak louder than words, and will be fondly remembered by coaches, teammates, and fans long after moving on to post-high school pursuits.

The oldest of Scott and Wendi’s two sons, Matt was a true four-year star, making an impact on both the Wolf football and baseball programs from his debut to his Senior Night farewells.

A two-way warrior on the gridiron. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

On the gridiron, he had skills and pop.

Matt could lay a hurtin’ on rivals, flying into the scrum ready to break fools in half, and pop the football free for his squad to recover.

But he was also a huge asset on the offensive side of the ball, as a runner and receiver, or returning kicks.

Having sent an electric jolt through the assembled Wolf faithful, Matt, like Wiley before him, would pop back up, nod (ever so slightly), then move on to the next play.

He didn’t prance around and celebrate tackling a third-string runner late in a game where his team trailed by three touchdowns, like some.

Matt wasn’t big on theatrics, but he was huge on results.

That carried over to the diamond, where he landed on multiple all-league teams while putting in work on the pitching mound and patrolling the infield.

His bat had pop, his legs could generate some speed, and, above all, he was a smart, seemingly self-contained player.

Add in an arm which could rip off some nasty pitches, and the Wolves were blessed during his four-year run.

Hilborn and Mason Grove pose after the duo collided during a mad pursuit for a ball. (Chris Smith photo)

Matt stayed on an even keel, and his team benefited.

It’s possible his insides were churning the whole time, but, from the perspective of those in the stands, he always seemed composed and in control.

Make a huge pitch, deliver a crucial hit, or commit the rare error, and Matt remained in control, exactly what you want from a team leader.

During his time in a Wolf uniform, we exchanged a mere handful of words, most of them when he stopped by my duplex once to deliver food from his mom.

Which is good, since, like Wiley before him, that taciturn personality just added to his old-school legend.

Matt showed up, busted his tail, then tipped his hat and moved on with his life.

Much respect from the stands for that.

And, officially, as of today, Matt gets his rightful induction into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

Which should have come earlier, but I am apparently forgetful.

Recently, as I scanned the list of names nestled under the Legends tab at the top of the blog, I was surprised not to see his name.

Could I have forgotten to give Matt his just due?

Or did I write a story and merely forget to add Matt’s name on the official list between … Wiley Hesselgrave … and Dawson Houston?

Oh, anything is possible, as anyone who has seen my brain misfire over the years can attest.

Today, that changes however.

A Hall o’ Fame story, either the first or the second, and this time, I absolutely, positively have added Hilborn to the roll call.

Putting Matt right where he has always belonged.

Senior Night with the parental units. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

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Aaron Curtin brings the heat. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

This blog turns nine years old August 15, and to mark the occasion, I’m picking what I view as the best nine Wolf athletes from each active CHS sport.

To be eligible, you had to play for the Wolves between Aug. 2012-Aug. 2021, AKA the “Coupeville Sports” years.

So here we go. Each day between Aug. 2-15, a different sport and (probably) a different argument.


The little league champs still rule.

Central Whidbey’s juniors hardball team won a state title in 2010, when I was still writing for the Coupeville Examiner.

Jump forward into the blog years, and the guys from that title team stayed in the news, with many of them playing a full four years of high school ball.

Five of my nine picks from the diamond were part of that group, and they headline a mythical nine which includes two sets of brothers.

Hunter Smith is just here for the strikeouts.

Josh Bayne — A beast. The only Wolf player I’ve seen jack an out-of-the-park home run on Coupeville’s field, and that ball is still going up and far, far away, years later.

Aaron Curtin — He had a wicked touch as a hurler, a lively bat, and could stare down anyone.

Ben Etzell — Coupeville’s only league MVP, in any sport, during the 1A/2A Cascade Conference years, when ATM was the big baddie. Big bat, bigger arm, a strikeout machine who went on to a strong four-year college career as a pitching ace.

Cole Payne — From younger brother to team leader, he rose through the ranks to leave a large impact on the program, then tipped his hat and walked away, a winner to the end.

Morgan Payne — Big bro patrolled short and provided a dangerous bat; a quiet, very-effective player from little league through Senior Night.

CJ Smith — Captain Cool, he pitched Coupeville to its first baseball league title in 25 years, while seemingly never breaking a sweat.

Hunter Smith — Maybe the most-talented player to ever take the CHS diamond — a force on the mound, at short, and at the plate, where he had pop, speed, and an uncanny knack for big-game heroics.

Aaron Trumbull — Severely underrated, he was a steadying force for the Wolves wherever he played, whether taking the mound or hovering at first base. Also a class act who always put team first, a stand-up guy who never left a teammate hanging.

Jake Tumblin — Rock-solid behind the plate, he was the rare catcher who was also the quickest player on the team, hurtling around the base-paths to create perfectly-orchestrated havoc.

Aaron Trumbull, firing BB’s.


Next up: We head to the cross country trail.

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Joey Lippo contemplates the end of the summer baseball season, while twin Skyy gets ready for a long day of cheering. (Connie Lippo photo)

It’s not the Stanley Cup, but it’ll do.

Coupeville grad Joey Lippo springs from a hockey-mad family, but Sunday night he and his relatives celebrated a baseball title in style.

Taking two wins on the final day of the season, with a big assist from the former Wolf, the Lynnwood Llamas captured the Cascade Collegiate League crown.

After thumping the Snoqualmie Chinooks 14-2 in the semifinals, Lippo and Co. edged the Salem Salamanders 6-5 in the championship contest.

The Llamas finish 16-6 overall, while playing in a six-team wooden bat league featuring players from NCAA and NAIA baseball programs.

Lynnwood entered the playoffs as the #1 seed, yet almost didn’t have a full roster at game time.

With many players already returning to college, only eight of 22 Llamas were in uniform, but the day was saved when a ninth player showed up right before the first pitch.

Once on the field, Lynnwood dominated in the opener, getting big home runs from Drew Biggerstaff and PJ Moritz.

Lippo lashed a three-run double to break things open, staking the Llamas to a 10-1 lead, then closed out the mercy rule-shortened win by pitching the final inning.

Getting his arm loose would come up big for the former Wolf, who came on to pitch five innings of relief in the nightcap.

Holding Salem scoreless for the first four of those frames, before tiring a bit in the seventh, Lippo left the mound with a 6-4 lead and earned the victory.

He scattered five hits, and his best inning came in the top of the sixth, when he used just four pitches to set the Salamanders down 1-2-3.

Lippo, who reached base three times in the finale, is now off to the fishing hole before returning to the University of Maine at Presque Isle, where he’ll be a sophomore.

Time to go fishin’. (Photo courtesy Teresa Besaw)

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Whidbey grads turned college baseball players James Besaw (left) and Joey Lippo hang out at the ol’ ball field. (Connie Lippo photo)

Injuries are making life tougher than need be.

After roaring out to a 9-0 start to the summer season, the Lynnwood Llamas baseball squad has come back to the crowd a bit, going 5-6 since.

The Llamas, led by Coupeville grad Joey Lippo — one of the few Lynnwood players not to be injured or miss games — are still sitting pretty good at 14-6, with one week left in the regular season.

Lippo and Co. rebounded Sunday to beat the Seattle Sea Turtles 4-3, salvaging one win from a three-game series.

Lynnwood lost 6-0 Saturday, then fell 8-3 in Sunday’s first game.

The six-team Cascade Collegiate League, which features NCAA and NAIA players swinging away with wood bats, wraps its regular season August 1, with playoffs set for Aug. 6-8.

Lippo, who is heading into his sophomore year at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, did a little Shohei Ohtani impression, pitching and hitting against the Sea Turtles.

The former Wolf standout tossed four innings in the series opener, scattering four hits and giving up just a single unearned run.

Lippo picked up a pair of hits in the series, was plunked by a pitch, and added to his team-leading stolen base tally, while also patrolling center field and camping out behind home plate clad in catcher’s gear.

He made several strong throws while scampering around the wide open spaces, and also pulled in a catch while sliding.

With its roster a bit depleted by injuries, Lynnwood actually had to borrow a player from Seattle to field a full nine in the series finale.

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Joey Lippo (left), Skyy Lippo, and James Besaw have a reunion. (Teresa Besaw photo)

Always be ready.

Coupeville grad Joey Lippo had a busy weekend on the baseball diamond, showcasing his fleet feet, while also getting an unexpected chunk of work on the mound.

Friday, the former Wolf dashed home from third on a short pop-up in the ninth inning, tying the game and giving his Lynnwood Llamas hardball squad new life.

Once in extra innings, Lippo and Co. pulled out an 11-10 win over the Salem Salamanders in Cascade Collegiate League action.

While the victory, Lynnwood’s 13th of the summer, clinches a winning record for the Llamas, Saturday’s follow-up didn’t go quite as nicely.

Primed to play a doubleheader with the Salamanders, Lynnwood found itself in a bit of a bind when none of the team’s pitchers showed.

As in … absolutely none.

But after flipping some players around, including bringing Lippo in from center field to pitch, the Llamas put up a spirited fight while falling 6-2 and 3-2.

The losses drop Lynwood to 13-4 on the season, but the team remains atop the league standings.

Lippo threw five innings, scattering four hits while whiffing four Salamanders and giving up just a lone walk.

At the plate, he picked up a pair of hits, knocked in a run, and scored one during the weekend series.

The wood bat-using Cascade Collegiate League, which draws players from NCAA and NAIA schools, is a six-team conference with a 24-game schedule which runs between June and August.

Lippo will be a sophomore at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

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