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.

Mike Criscuola

And then there were nine.

Well, there’s always been nine. But now I can prove it.

Thanks to recently unearthed stats, we can now credit Mike Criscuola with 52 additional points from his sophomore basketball season in 1957-1958.

That officially (well, as official as anything compiled by me can be…) pushes “Big Mike” over the 1,000-point barrier, leaving him with 1,031 career points.

Which means he’s the fifth boy, and ninth player overall, to score 1,000+ points on the hardwood for Coupeville High School.

Well, actually he was the first to do it, but you know what I’m talking about.

Criscuola, who was on the CHS varsity as an 8th grader, was built like a Mack truck.

Add the glasses he normally wore, and a barrel chest which strained to pop free from his uniform, and, even as a young man, he looked like a dad who had slipped in to the team photo by accident.

The #1 scorer in school history when he graduated in 1960, Criscuola’s numbers have held up amazingly well over the past six decades, even as the three-point shot has ignited high-octane offenses.

And, while we are (slowly) able to pull his scoring stats back into focus, no one will ever know how many rebounds he hauled down, as those stat sheets long ago blew away in the prairie breeze.

Those who played with him vividly remember Criscuola yanking down nearly every loose ball within a five-mile radius.

Barring the successful completion of a time machine, or an Indiana Jones-style discovery of a secret cache of stats in the hidden basement of a 100-year old prairie barn, those rebound numbers will remain a mystery.

But, at the very least, we can continue to fine-tune the numbers we do have, and pay tribute to a true Wolf hoops legend.


Coupeville High School basketball 1,000-point scorers:

Brianne King — (1549) — (1999-2003)
Zenovia Barron — (1270) — (1994-1998)
Makana Stone — (1158) — (2012-2016)
Jeff Stone — (1137) — (1967-1970)
Mike Bagby — (1137) — (2002-2006)
Randy Keefe — (1088) — (1973-1976)
Megan Smith — (1042) — (2006-2010)
Mike Criscuola — (1031) — (1956-1960)
Jeff Rhubottom — (1012) — (1975-1978)

Jim Yake, a three-sport standout at Coupeville High School from 1957-1961. (Photos courtesy Sharon Franzen)

Looking back
On the memory of
The dance we shared
‘Neath the stars above
For a moment
All the world was right
How could I have known
That you’d ever say goodbye…

Garth Brooks was born a year after the Coupeville High School Class of 1961 graduated, and his song The Dance didn’t hit the radio until ’89.

But, as the Wolves of yesteryear plan for their 60th reunion at the end of July, the words carry a certain poignancy.

The Class of ’61 went 32 students deep (26 boys and six girls) — the largest class to graduate on the prairie at that point since CHS officially became CHS in 1900.

While several class members have passed in the years since, current plans call for at least half the class showing up for the reunion.

Like too much of the athletic history of Coupeville, the achievements of the young men and women who walked the hallways at CHS in those days is hard to come by.

The Whidbey News-Times, which always favored Oak Harbor in the early days (he grumbled to himself…), has long since buried their archives, packaged up and shipped off-Island by the paper’s Canadian overlords.

What we do have is the school’s yearbooks, which, depending on the year, are either incredibly rich in detail, or not so much.

The 1961 edition of the Leloo Cly sort of falls in the middle, with photos and names, but not much info on win/loss records or stats.

Of the four boys sports (Title IX was still a decade away), baseball, coached by the legendary Bob Barker, is the only one to report its results in the yearbook.

Coupeville’s diamond men, led by seniors like Vin Sherman and Jim Yake, as well as stars of the future such as Dale Sherman and Denny Clark, finished second in a six-team league in the spring of ’61.

Granite Falls topped the conference at 7-1, followed by the Wolves (5-4), La Conner (5-5), Sultan (5-5), Darrington (4-4), and Tolt (1-8).

While earlier annuals listed baseball stats — ’61 grad John Larson smacked a team-high 20 hits the season before — this time around yearbook editors went the mysterious route.

So, seniors like Ed MacDonald and Bob Dennis pop up in a team photo, but their stats? Possibly lost to time, and fading memories.

The same goes for the tennis and football squads.

From other sources, I do have complete scoring stats for the basketball team, which featured five seniors on an 11-man unit.

Yake led the Wolves in scoring, pumping in 247 points, while fellow seniors Vance Huffman (203), Noel Criscuola (162), Pat Millenbach (126), and Roy Mattox (83) all chipped in to the effort.

Setting the net on fire.

The 60-61 basketball team, led by coach Bob Boushey, might not have known it at the time, but a skinny freshman with a big grin would actually prove to be the most-accomplished player of the era.

Denny Clark rippled the nets for five points as a (presumably) wide-eyed frosh while sharing floor time with Utz Conard, Steve Smith, and Co.

Then he promptly added 864 more over the next three seasons, which is why Clark currently sits as the #9 scorer all-time across 104 seasons of CHS boys basketball.

On the tennis court, senior Ray Edwards was among the players hefting wooden rackets, while eight Class of ’61 grads led the football team.

Vin Sherman, Yake, Larson, Mattox, and Millenbach were joined by John Wofford, Frank Tinius, and Jim Engle.

And what about the girls, you ask?

Back in ’61, in the absence of female sports teams, CHS had what was known as the GAA — the Girls Athletic Association.

Bob Barker, who capped his coaching career by working with Wolf girls basketball teams in the late ’80s, remembers it being a sort of hodge-podge.

“Now, if my memory is correct, (and there is some possibility that it isn’t 100%), the interested girls would get together after school once or twice a week and indulge in some type of sport activity under the direction of a supervisor, which was usually their physical education instructor,” he said.

“I vaguely remember field hockey, and volleyball as a couple of those sports.”

Five of the six female students to graduate in ’61 participated in the GAA at some point in their high school career, with Junelle Bohnsack the lone senior in the program photo that year.

Junelle Bohnsack

She was ever-busy, a member of the school’s drill team and Girls Club, part of the newspaper and yearbook staff, and a scorekeeper for both football and basketball.

Bohnsack’s senior bio also includes a notation for playing tennis her final three years, though there’s nary a girls netter photo to be found in the ’61 Leloo Cly.

Another mystery for another time.

Piece by piece, the tapestry of Coupeville athletics comes into focus, and this time out we offer up a big thank you to Sharon Franzen, Homecoming Queen, Honor Roll stalwart, and also the owner of the yearbook from which this info spilled.

Raise a glass for the Class of ’61 — still setting the world afire six decades after they earned their diplomas.

The view from a boat skimming local waters. (Photo property Rowing on Whidbey)

Rowing on Whidbey is on the lookout to add a coach.

The club, which promotes life on the water to athletes from novices to seasoned pros, is based out of Oak Harbor.

The following was posted Thursday afternoon on Facebook:

Coach needed for fledgling club in paradise.

Whidbey Island is sheltered from most of the local rains by a rain shadow formed by the Olympic Mountains.

Temperatures are moderated by the surrounding waters of Puget Sound. The views are amazing and marine wildlife abounds.

There are a number of novice rowers just waiting to absorb all you can teach them. Send a message for more details!!


To contact ROW:

(360) 682-8222


Rowing on Whidbey (rowonwhidbey.org)

Sofia Peters (left) and Gwen Gustafson are part of a “bright future” for Coupeville High School softball. (Photo courtesy Irene Gustafson)

Wins are nice, growth even better.

Getting some of both, the Coupeville High School softball squad strolled to an 8-2 win over next door neighbor Oak Harbor Wednesday, running its summer league winning streak to four games.

The Wolves enjoyed a bigger roster than before, with incoming freshmen who played on the Whidbey Island All-Star juniors team in uniform for the first time.

That group was coming off a district title and a four-game run at the state little league tourney.

“All the new freshmen played for the first time last night and did a great job, with some minor hiccups along the way,” said CHS coach Kevin McGranahan.

“But, all in all, I was impressed with their poise and how they competed,” he added. “The Wolf fastpitch program has a very bright future.”

With the influx of new players, McGranahan had to shuffle his lineup a bit to insure playing time for the newcomers.

“It is impossible to play 20 girls in one game, so I want to thank those that I asked to take a week off,” he said. “You gave the younger girls valuable experience last night.

“Thanks for being unselfish and “taking one for the team”.”

Coupeville closes summer league play next Wednesday, July 28, when it plays its final two games of the off-season.