Every baseball player dreams of one day playing in a major league ballpark, but few get the opportunity to actually fulfill it. The Wilson Rams got that unique opportunity on April 20, travelling up to Safeco Field to take on Nathan Hale in the High School Baseball Classic. And while the 6-0 loss to Nathan Hale was less then satisfying on the field, the experience was worth it.
“It’s amazing. It’s once in a lifetime,” said Wilson senior catcher Nate Sandoval. “We’ve been looking forward to this every day. It’s exciting to be here.”
The imposing, unfamiliar environment – sporting a capacity of over 54,000 – might have caused a bit of nerves, as the Rams threatened offensively in nearly every inning but were unable to break through.
“It’s definitely jaw dropping,” said Wilson head coach Doug Rupe of playing at Safeco. “We stranded 11 guys (on base). I was hoping to have a little bit more of a competitive game. When it’s all said and done, they all will be able to say that ‘I played at Safeco Field.’”
The Raiders got on the board in the top of the first on Emerson Rowe’s single that scored Steven Richards. Wilson starter Peter Larson then settled into a groove, and looked as if he would cruise through the third inning until Matt Jarvis reached on an error. That started a three-run rally, as Spencer Shangrow had a two-run single and Anthony Vadino’s followed with a run-scoring single to make it 4-0. The Rams looked to respond in the bottom half, loading the bases when Thomas Norisahn singled, Brady O’Keefe was hit by a pitch and Jared Horner walked with two outs. But Raiders starter Grant Turville escaped the threat by striking out Matt Stortini.
“We could have produced more runs,” Sandoval said. “We left a couple runners on. It is what it is.”
The Raiders added two more unearned runs off Robbie Rhoads in the fourth, as Steven Richards scored on an error and Aaron Mandell scored on Joe Katz’s sacrifice fly. Sandoval then doubled to lead off the Rams’ fourth and advanced to third when Evan Stout reached on an error with two outs, but Nathan Hale reliever Jimmy Truong escaped the threat by fielding Santana Johnson’s grounder and throwing him out at first. The Rams had another chance to break through in the sixth when Rhoads walked, Cameron Ficca singled and the duo advanced to second and third with two outs, but the Raiders again escaped with a ground out. O’Keefe, meanwhile, provided a bright spot for the Rams on the mound by coming on in the fifth to pitch three perfect innings, tallying five strikeouts. The nonleague loss meant nothing to Wilson’s postseason chances, as at 2-6 in the Narrows 3A they are still well in the hunt for a playoff spot.
“We have to show a little bit of heart,” Rupe said. “We’ve got to come up with some two-out hits. Not only is that going to help the momentum offensively, it’s going to take us right into the defensive game…we have to keep momentum on our side.”