Joe Martin Stadium creaked back to life Friday to welcome back the Bellingham Bells as they defeated the Edmonton Riverhawks 2-1 on opening day.
With the temperature sitting just under 70 degrees, a packed house came to watch last year’s West Coast League championship runners-up kick off the season.
“You never know what you’re going to get from a first game; the pitchers might be nervous and might not throw strikes, hitters might strike out but none of that happened,” Bells head coach Jim Clem said. “They played real calm and free and I felt like we’re already pretty comfortable.”
Bellingham Bells’ Yohann Dessureault hits a broken-bat RBI single. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)
Returning hurler Ryan Beitel opened the year on the bump for the Bells. The University of British Columbia junior recorded the first out of the season after punching out Edmonton’s lead-off hitter and the side was quickly retired with a ground out and pop fly.
Beitel allowed the game’s first hit in the top of the second, but the Bells went back to hit after a double play squashed the Riverhawks’ first threat.
Bellingham notched its first hit of the year via a Nate Kirkpatrick single, got a runner to second base, but couldn’t capitalize in the bottom half of the third.
As more hits began to fall, the fourth inning ended just before the night’s “Wheel of Fortune” broadcast hit the air and the game began to slow.
The sun began to set and not much of anything happened until the seventh inning.
Bellingham Bells’ Cole Yoshida slides home for the first run of the game. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)
Edmonton moved a runner to third for the first time in the top of the seventh, but with one out, he was thrown out at home by third baseman Nate Kirkpatrick.
Bellingham second baseman Cole Yoshida led off the bottom of the eighth with a hit to center. He then was moved to second by a bunt from right fielder Kyle Parkman and advanced to third off a wild pitch.
With two outs, two strikes and Yoshida on third, Bellingham center fielder Andrew Valdez stuck his bat out over the plate and dinked an RBI over the first baseman’s head to put the Bells up 1-0.
Bells first baseman Yohann Dessureault — who led Bellingham hitting 2-for-3 on the night — smacked a broken-bat single down the left field line to score Valdez.
The Bells then retired and went to defend their lead in the ninth behind the arm of reliever Ryan Orr.
One Riverhawk reached while the Bells infield retired two other hitters to start the inning. Edmonton’s Jonathan McGill hit an RBI double to pull the Riverhawks within one run. Edmonton then got another hit, moving McGill to third.
With one pitch possibly determining the outcome, Orr dealt to Edmonton’s Jakob Poturnak, who slapped the ball to Parkman in right field. The outfielder collected the ball and threw a laser to home, beating the runner by a step-and-a-half and winning the game for the Bells.
“I knew I had to do my part to help the team out, so I took my time, got a good throw and trusted my guy behind the plate, Cole [Williams], to put a good tag on him,” Parkman said. “With the whole crowd up on their feet cheering for it, there’s no better feeling.”
Orr recorded the save, locking in the win for Beitel.
Although early in the season, the Bells skipper is hopeful for another strong season.
“You don’t really know what you have until you play for a bit … hopefully we can [keep doing] what we did tonight: throw a lot of strikes and put balls in play,” Clem said.
A previous version of this story misidentified Kyle Parkman. The story was updated to reflect this change on June 5, 2023, at 5:54 p.m. Cascadia Daily News regrets the error.