Kelso Fastpitch advances with win

Saturday, June 9, 2007
Kelso Fastpitch pitcher Tom Jansen delivered to home during his three-hit shutout Friday night. (Toby Carrig)

The local squad opened play with a 4-0 victory over Elkville, Ill.

KELSO -- Blake Essner knew that fast-pitch softball would be a calling for him.

"I grew up in Kelso," Essner said. "I've probably been here every year since I was a baby."

The Kelso Klassic Fastpitch Softball Tournament is that kind of event. Kelso Fastpitch coach Larry Essner said, "It's just like a big picnic."

On Friday night, with a good crowd finding spots on the bleachers or on their tailgates beyond the outfield fence or under the tent with the food and drink, Blake Essner had the chance to grab the spotlight. Playing in the tournament's opening game on the main field at the two-field complex, Essner had three hits and scored two runs to help lead Kelso Fastpitch to a 4-0 victory against Elkville (Ill.) Fastpitch.

Blake Essner of Kelso Fastpitch was congratulated upon return to the dugout after scoring Kelso's first run Friday night in a 4-0 victory against Elkviille Fastpitch of Illinois. (Toby Carrig)

Kelso didn't manage a lot of hits of its own, but it pieced together a three-run rally in the third inning with two bunts and an error.

For Kelso starter Tom Jansen, that was all the support he would need. He allowed three hits and two walks while striking out 11 in the seven-inning shutout.

Elkville starter Les Wood looked just as tough in the early going. But after Kelso had managed one hit through two innings, Essner led off the third by dropping a perfect bunt just in front of the plate. Catcher Scott Horman followed with a sacrifice attempt, but Wood's throw went into center field, allowing Essner to reach third. Eric Israelson, Kelso's leadoff batter, ripped a triple over the center fielder's head to drive in two runs. After Jerry Wolsey was hit by a pitch, he stole second base, and Israelson came in to score on the throw to second.

Brian Drew had the other RBI for Kelso.

Essner managed a perfect night at the plate, lining a couple of base hits on top of his bunt.

"We just had to stay back on his slow stuff," Essner said of Wood's pitching. "He threw a good fastball and a good rise ball."

Essner, just two years removed from his high school days at Notre Dame, said finally becoming a player in the fastpitch ranks took a period of adjustment.

"It took me at least a summer just to get used to the ball coming out at the knee," Essner said. "And the ball can go up. It's just different, and equally as hard as hitting a baseball, though."

Kelso, with its win, advances to today's 11:30 a.m. winners bracket quarterfinal. The double elimination tournament is scheduled to continue through Sunday, when the winners bracket concludes at noon and the championship round is scheduled to start at 3 p.m.

"We just want to keep winning, but it's going to get harder and harder," Kelso coach Eric Beardslee said.

The other team from Kelso in the early action Friday, Kelso Supply, lost a 5-2 decision to Lee's Sports of Radom, Ill.

Mike Esser took the loss for Kelso Supply, allowing six hits and striking out four.

Ferrell Wasson had a triple and an RBI for Kelso Supply, which will play 1 p.m. today in the elimination bracket.

Jamco Transportation, the other local team in the 14-team event, played late Friday night.

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