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Posts Tagged ‘baseball’

Denny Zylstra, planning some shenanigans.

Denny Zylstra is one of the true big-timers in the history of Coupeville athletics.

His runs as an athlete, coach, and die-hard supporter have been well-documented, and he has been a member of the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame for some time.

Today, though, thanks to Charlie Burrow, we have a story about a young Denny which I hadn’t previously heard.

One day in the spring of 1958, the Coupeville High School baseball team was returning from a game in Port Townsend aboard the PT-Keystone ferry.

The players were still in uniform because the county stadium where we played in downtown PT didn’t have showers – the team suited up at the Coupeville school, then went by bus to Keystone and walked aboard the ferry.

At that time the PT ferry dock was further north than the current dock and only about a block from the stadium, so CHS saved having to pay the fare for the bus by having the team walk aboard.

Anyway, at some point after we departed PT, someone dared Denny Zylstra (CHS ’58), the team’s leading pitcher, and prankster, to jump off the ferry while it was underway.

He said he’d do it for $35.

So, when enough pledges were raised from players and supporters to meet his price, he began to strip off his uniform preparatory to making the plunge.

But, unfortunately (or, fortunately for Denny) a member of the ferry crew who’d gotten wind of the proceedings intervened and warned us that if he jumped, they’d be calling the sheriff and Denny would be arrested when we arrived at Keystone.

So much for that idea.

PS — Don’t remember who won the ball game.

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Scott Hilborn, who will be a freshman at Coupeville High School this fall, rumbles for yardage in a middle school game. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The younger brother is ready to make a big name for himself.

As he preps for his freshman year at Coupeville High School, Scott Hilborn is among the most-anticipated athletes headed towards their fall debut.

A standout football and baseball player during his middle school days, he has the same talent and drive which made older brother Matt a CHS star in the same sports over the past four years.

While his older sibling has graduated, Scott is ready to start writing his own success story.

“I really enjoy the opportunity to compete against others,” he said. “And, in addition, it helps me stay in shape.”

That, and farm work, as he gets plenty of time in the barn when at home.

Parents Steve and Wendi Hilborn own Penn Cove Farms, which makes Matt and Scott throwbacks to the olden days in Coupeville, when many top athletes toiled on local farms.

When he’s not knee-deep in the manure, the younger Hilborn enjoys math class, and proving himself on the diamond and gridiron.

He’s been at baseball longer, with his dad as his coach throughout little league play, and would give that sport the edge when it comes to picking a favorite pastime.

“Baseball is my favorite sport,” Hilborn said. “Just because I have been playing it since I was little and I just started football.”

When he steps back and takes a look at his skill-set, he sees strengths, but also wouldn’t mind a sudden growth spurt.

“I think I excel at agility and hand/eye coordination,” Hilborn said. “However, my size is really holding me back.”

But, while he might not be a tree topper heading into his freshman year, don’t sleep on him any time soon.

Having watched him play a couple of years, I’m here to tell you his speed, his tenacity, his strength (farm work, good for every Coupeville athlete!), and his intangibles make him one to watch.

If he has half the career his brother did, Scott Hilborn will walk away from high school with his fair share of praise and awards.

But, trust me, he wants more than just that.

“My main goal in high school is just to be better than my brother,” Hilborn said.

And then he went right back to work.

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Foster Faris, one of the best athletes in CHS history, and also a tough son of a gun.

Kids were just tougher in the ’70s.

Or, parents, coaches, and doctors weren’t as sensitive.

One of the two, but I’m going with a lot of the first, and a little of the second.

Case in point, Foster Faris, universally hailed as one of the best athletes to ever suit up for Coupeville High School.

I was leafing through old Whidbey News-Times clippings today when I stumbled across a story from June 16, 1977.

The piece hailed Faris for being named the 76-77 CHS Athlete of the Year, an honor he earned after playing football, basketball, and baseball.

During his days on the gridiron, he played quarterback, split end, cornerback, punter, and placekicker.

In basketball, Faris pumped in 668 points, and still stands as the 21st highest scorer after 102 seasons of Wolf boys hoops.

He was #10 when he graduated, long before the three-point line arrived.

And while Faris scored oodles of buckets, he also led the Wolves in assists and steals as a senior.

That season, Coupeville fell just short of state — denied by a two-point loss to Bellevue Christian — robbing Faris of a third-straight trip to the big dance.

Once spring sprung, the guy hailed as “Mr. Everything” hit .406 for the Wolf baseball squad, stole 32 bases, picked up 17 RBI’s and scored 35 runs as CHS romped to a fourth-straight league title.

The ’70s were a decade of excellence for Coupeville, probably the best run male athletes have ever had in Cow Town.

And Faris was as good an athlete as Wolf fans have ever witnessed.

But the point of this story, today, is to highlight two paragraphs from that ’77 story.

Paragraphs which caught my attention, paragraphs which will never be written in a modern-day story.

Here they are:

Although only 135 pounds (127 during football season), Faris has proved to be quite durable, with his only serious injuries coming during football season.

A broken finger, two brain concussions and a sprained ankle, all incurred while playing cornerback on defense, have never caused Faris to miss more than part of a game.

Gol-dang!

Now, I know what you’re going to say. Modern medicine is making people safer, yadda yadda yadda.

Stow it.

It was 1977, a time when a six-year-old me would ride around town (and on the freeway) sitting on the engine block of my dad’s work van.

Which meant every time my dad’s foot jammed through the brake pad, my head bounced off the wind-shield and then I flew into the back of the van, where all his jagged carpet cleaning tools and giant pump bottles of weird chemicals were waiting to break my fall.

I was six, Foster Faris was 17, and we were just tougher than these whippersnappers today. End of story.

Now get off my lawn!

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Kyle Rockwell sails in and snags a rebound during his days as a three-sport athlete at Coupeville High School. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Rockwell, seen here with Wolf baseball coach Chris Smith, joins older sister Maria as a member of the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

Kyle Rockwell had a senior season for the ages.

Before he graduated back in 2018, the one-time Wolf achieved a rare trifecta, pulling off the signature play of his team’s season, and doing it not once, not twice, but three times.

When you look back at Coupeville High School male athletics during the 2017-2018 season, the school’s final in the Olympic League, it would be hard to argue anyone made more of an impact than Rockwell did.

Now, I’m not saying Kyle was the best athlete in a CHS uniform. That was Hunter Smith, absolutely.

But Rockwell was a superb complementary player, the kind of durable, high-achieving support crew you need, and want.

And, given the chance, he stepped up three times, once each in the fall, winter, and spring, and made a play which will linger for a long time in the minds of Wolf fans.

For that, for overcoming every obstacle which has come his way, and for being the dude everyone cheered for thanks to his eternally positive attitude and easy-going nature, we’re rewarding him.

Mr. Rockwell joins his older sister, softball supernova Maria, in the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame, and, after this, will be found at the top of the blog under the Legends tab.

Part of this honor stems from Kyle’s resiliency, as he has been blind in one eye since childhood, yet never let that slow his roll.

Rockwell has been an athlete since day one, though it took awhile for his parents, understandably, to let him enter certain arenas.

He finally got the OK to play football as a senior, and it was there he made his first big-time play.

All season long he was a … rock … on the line, but in the home finale, he grabbed the spotlight, reflected it up at himself, and sang a few bars of My Way.

Ripping through would-be blockers like a (very large) knife slicin’ ‘n dicin’ walking, talking, non-blocking pats of butter, Rockwell destroyed a rival running back as he tried to come around the edge.

Shoulder met stomach, ball flipped free.

Then, staying as calm and cool as you can after you’ve just knocked a fool out of his cleats, the guy in the Wolf uniform lunged forward and scooped the now-free football into his chest before half of the other team landed on his head.

It was a beautiful play, full of precision and fury, and yet just the start for Rockwell during his year of glory and achievement.

Skip forward to basketball season, and Coupeville pulls off the biggest upset of the season, again in the home finale.

Facing first-place Klahowya, Rockwell and Co. pull off a 59-54 thriller on Senior Night that reignites memories of former Wolf basketball glory.

Hunter Smith goes off for a career-high 35 to spark CHS, but it’s Rockwell with the clincher.

Caught in a traffic jam in the paint, surrounded by three KSS players, he flexes his biceps to create a shock wave, then rips the ball free from an Eagle, spins and powers back up for the game-clinching layup.

The Klahowya players, sprawled on the court, can do little more than bow their heads to their conqueror, as Smith, Joey Lippo, Hunter Downes, and Cameron Toomey-Stout come charging in to group hug all the air out of Rockwell’s body.

And yet, there’s more.

Spring brings with it baseball, Rockwell’s longest-running sport, and our urban legend caps his prep career with one more play, his best yet.

Coupeville, trying to win its second league crown in three seasons, spends much of the campaign in a stare-down with Chimacum.

The Cowboys win the opener of the team’s three-game season series, taking advantage of a ridiculously muddy field on the mainland.

But the Wolves hold strong, and given a rematch on the prairie, they come up with a 1-0 victory which all but clinches the title.

Rockwell, who normally operates at first base, is lurking in right field when destiny comes calling, and I’ll direct you to the game story from that day, which captures his insane, game-clinching throw in all its Spielbergian glory.

You can find it at https://coupevillesports.com/2018/04/23/magic-on-the-prairie/.

And, just to prove it wasn’t a one-time thing, Rockwell came back later in the week, playing in the third game of the Chimacum series, and laid down the RBI bunt which provided the only run Coupeville needed to win again, and make everything official.

Cause that’s what you do when you’re the author of “I Rock: The Kyle Rockwell Story.”

Which is now, and forever, the autobiography of a certified Hall o’ Famer.

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Camden Glover was superb on the mound Friday for Central Whidbey Little League, whiffing 11 batters in a one-run game. (Photo courtesy Stevie Glover)

Not the end, the beginning. (Carron Chernobieff photo)

The season ended, not with a whimper, but with a mighty roar.

The Central Whidbey Little League Majors baseball team may have come out on the short end of a 3-2 thriller Friday with arch-rival South Whidbey, but the Wolves walked off the field at Oak Harbor’s Windjammer Park having fully earned the respect of everyone in attendance.

Playing its fourth contest in five days, and a third-straight elimination game, Central Whidbey came dangerously close to upending its highly-touted foes and advancing to the title game of the District 11 All-Star tournament.

The loss left the Wolves with a 12-8 record on the season, including a 2-2 mark this week as they captured 3rd place in a six-team tourney.

South Whidbey, 3-1 in tournament play, advances to face Burlington (3-0) and its 6-foot-3 pitching ace Saturday afternoon.

The future Falcons have to win twice against the off-Islanders to claim the double-elimination tourney title and a trip to state.

While Central Whidbey won’t be going to the big dance this season, the only team in the tourney to have drawn its players from just one regular-season team fought like the dickens.

And Friday’s finale, while bittersweet, was huge, as the Wolves pulled a 180-degree turn from how they played when they lost to South Whidbey in Monday’s tourney opener.

That game was 6-0, but it felt more like 200-0, as the first 11 Central Whidbey hitters struck out and the team could do little offensively.

Friday night was a different tale, and it started with CWLL coach Jon Roberts winning the coin flip and snatching home field advantage for his squad.

Charging out of a different dugout then on Monday, the Wolves responded much like the squad which KO’d Sedro-Woolley and Anacortes in back-to-back elimination games Wednesday and Thursday night.

Camden Glover strode to the mound as Central’s starting pitcher, and he was as good as any hurler has been in this tourney.

After carefully parceling out innings between their pitchers in previous games, the Wolf coaching staff was able to sit back and watch one blossom into a full-on ace on this sunny, slightly windy evening.

Glover dominated, whiffing the side in the top of the first and eventually finishing with 11 K’s in just under five innings of work.

He had a one-hit shutout through four innings, and gave his team a fighting chance against a very-solid South Whidbey lineup.

The few times Glover let the ball get into play in the early going, his defense was there to immediately clamp down on any and everything.

First-baseman Landon Roberts made a nice scoop and dash to the bag on one unassisted play, then stretched out to pull in a throw coming in hot from shortstop Chase Anderson on a hard-hit grounder.

But, as good as Glover was, he was matched by South Whidbey’s main man on the mound, Kasen Parsell.

The precise and powerful rival hurler escaped danger twice, got nicked once, then got progressively stronger as the game played out.

Central Whidbey got on the base-paths much quicker this time around, with lead-off hitter Jack Porter slashing a shot to the side of the shortstop, then bolting to first to beat the incoming throw.

One out later, Anderson zinged a base-knock to center, followed by a passed ball which put Wolves at second and third with just one out.

It wasn’t to be, however, as Parsell bore down and rang up back-to-back strikeouts, then turned around and dodged another bullet in the bottom of the second.

That time, the Wolves used a single from John Rachal and a walk to Jordan Bradford to once again put two runners aboard, only to see it come to naught.

Rachal’s thunderous hit could have been extra bases, should have been extra bases, but the South Whidbey shortstop made a superb dive to snare the ball.

While he couldn’t get back to his feet in time to nail Rachal, who was churning down the line like mad, it did limit the Wolf slugger to just one base.

Central’s second attempt at a rally died a premature death when Parsell blew the ball past a Central slugger for an inning-ending out, but the feeling in the air was different than it had been on Monday.

And it paid off in the bottom of the third, an inning in which the Wolves didn’t get a hit, but still scored both of their runs.

Aiden O’Neill opened the frame by taking a wayward pitch off his body, earning hoots and hollers of appreciation from the Central Whidbey Little League softball players in attendance.

A booted ball on a hard skipper off Anderson’s bat put two runners aboard for the third straight time, while an error on a liner by Johnny Porter finally brought the game’s first score around.

Looking for an insurance run, Glover dropped the prettiest sacrifice bunt imaginable.

The ball plopping off his bat, it crawled down the first-base line, staying well fair, as Anderson came streaking across the plate before a single South Whidbey fielder could get close to the wobbling orb.

The game remained 2-0 until the top of the fifth, Glover and Parsell going mano a mano, bobbing and weaving, fastballs blazing into their respective catcher’s mitt time and again.

But South Whidbey is a very good team, one with a roster filled with state tournament veterans, and they did what good teams do – found a way to win.

A single and a hit batter put two aboard in the fifth, while Glover’s 11th strikeout and a strong catch in center by Jack Porter slapped two outs on the scoreboard.

With the game hanging in the balance, and parents on both sides hyperventilating, South Whidbey’s #3 and #4 hitters, Parsell and Grady Davis, came through in the clutch.

Back-to-back doubles, with the second one plating the tying and go-ahead runs, were a crippler for Central Whidbey, and justifiable cause for an explosion of cheering from the visitor’s bench.

The Wolves swapped out Glover for closer Chase “The Magic Man” Anderson at that point, and he ended the inning on a strikeout.

But not before South Whidbey’s coach made a classy gesture, walking towards Glover as he headed out to replace Anderson at shortstop, leaning in and telling the tired Wolf pitcher, “You pitched a great game. A great game.”

While Parsell deserved the win, retiring the final nine Wolves he faced in order, Glover’s performance, coming in a pressure-packed game on the biggest stage he’s been on, should not be forgotten.

His season, and the ones put together by teammates Marcelo Gebhard, Jack Porter, Bradford, Alex Smith, Jacob Schooley, Rachal, Johnny Porter, O’Neill, Anderson, and Roberts, were marked by wins and big plays.

But also by resilience, hard work and a willingness to sacrifice for each other and the good of the team.

It was a season to remember, and a finale which offers much promise for the future of Coupeville baseball.

Friday’s bout, simply put, was everything you hope to see in an elimination game.

One side walks away a bit happier, yes, but, on the first night of the tourney where there was just one game being played, both teams rose to the moment.

As they go forward, barring family moves, or athletes choosing soccer in the spring (boo! hiss! and boo again!), many of these players should face off time and again on the diamond as they age from eager little league players to grizzled high school veterans.

Whether they were a “winner” or a “loser” Friday night, may they never forget this game.

A night when both teams, and every player, fought with everything they had and exited having shown respect for themselves, their opponents, and the game itself.

Win or lose, this wasn’t an end for anyone. It’s just the beginning.

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