MIKE EYSTER / PHOTO – Jeff Fripp hits the first home run in a home game during the Beacons’ first game Friday at Hamlin Sports Complex in Springfield.
SPRINGFIELD – It wasn’t exactly like everyone’s head movie when it comes to imagining a baseball team’s first-ever home game on Opening Day.
Players were greeted with blustery conditions under gray skies, the wind whipping at a brisk double-digit mph speed. It was 38 degrees.
The only fans in attendance were family members of players and coaches. The general public was not invited to the party, due to Covid restrictions, but the banners and flags with “Bushnell” and “Beacons” printed on them were still flapping in the wind.
Construction crew members were finalizing work on the stands, installing braces and seats while a generator gently hummed in the background when Nick Askew, who handles media relations and serves as the public address announcer, welcomed the crowd.
And, oh, what a fairy-tale ending to the three-day weekend event featuring Bushnell, Corban University and Oregon Tech at the Hamlin Sports Complex, part of Hamlin Middle School in Springfield. Bushnell, winless on the road and opening their first home series, lost games Friday and Saturday before defeating Corban 6-0 in its Sunday finale – earning the first win in program history, and the first home win ever. Playing its inaugural season, everything the Beacons do is historic these days. The starting and winning pitcher of record was Jahshua Yacapin, who had four strikeouts and gave up two hits through 5 1/3 innings.
MIKE EYSTER / PHOTO – Empires Mike Emery, left, and Mike Lehman stand during the National Anthem with players standing at attention in the background on Friday.
Associate Athletic Director Sarah Freeman spoke the words “play ball” into the PA system, and the Beacons were off. Ethan Sachs will go down in Beacons history by throwing the first pitch at home. It was a ball. The sophomore right-hander from Riverside, Calif., recorded the loss. The highlight of the 7-3 loss was a home run from Jeff Fripp.
MIKE EYSTER / PHOTO – Ethan Sachs throws the first pitch in Bushnell’s first home game.
In the second game Friday, Oregon Tech beat the Beacons, 9-1 and then Bushnell fell 3-0 to Corban on Saturday. That dropped the team’s record to 0-11 heading into Sunday’s final game, where Yacapin and Kai Keamo combined on the four-hit shutout in the Beacons’ first NAIA-era victory. Beyond the on-field action, parents and relatives of players said they were impressed with the new baseball field at Hamlin.
Marilyn and Bob Lippert are grandparents of Jacob Stoner, a redshirt freshman on the Bushnell squad. They made the more than 10-hour drive to see their grandson. Jake’s parents, Dawn and Todd Stoner, were on hand, too. They made the five-hour drive from Washington state.
“The field is obviously beautiful. It far exceeds any other stadium we’ve seen,” Todd said with Dawn nodding, seasoned travelers while following their son’s career over the years.
MIKE EYSTER / PHOTO – Beacons catcher Kyle Casperson chats with umpires before Friday’s opening game against Corban University.
April and Josh Artzer drove to Springfield from Ridgeland, Wash., to see their son Scott play for the Corban University Warriors.
“I like the colorful field,” April said.
Both parents were beaming, and acknowledged the fulfilling path to this point. “We’ve been going to his games since he was 8 years old,” Josh said. Added April: “Our vacation each year was wherever the big tournament he was playing in was being held.”
Karen and Scott O’Brien are from Broomfield, Colo., just north of Denver. Their son Keenan is senior catcher – “a Covid senior,” she says, “so he gets one more year.
“The field is beautiful,” and it will challenge hitters, she is quick to point out. It’s so perfect, “batters won’t get any seeing-eye grounders or lucky bounces. They are going to have to earn base hits.”