SUQUAMISH — It may have been 28 years ago, but for the players and coaches that were a part of the South Kitsap baseball team’s legendary 1996 season, the memories are as fresh as ever.
And they were happy to share the tale with an eager audience of nearly 300 at the Kitsap Athletic Hall of Fame induction banquet, hosted by the Kitsap Athletic Roundtable on Jan. 26 at the Kiana Lodge.
As the story goes, it was a rainy, miserable mid-May day when the team traveled to Heidelberg Park in Tacoma for their 3A Region III baseball opener against Redmond.
Awaiting them on the mound for the Mustangs was 6-foot-5 right-hander Brian Falkenborg, a future Major Leaguer who, one month later, would be drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the second round of the Major League Baseball draft.
South Kitsap countered with its own future Major Leaguer on the mound in Jason Ellison, but Redmond picked up a pair of runs early in the game, and with Falkenborg dealing, the Wolves eventual state championship run looked like it might end before it even began.
Then the skies opened up, forcing the game to be halted.
“We were going home and we were down a little bit,” said Jim Fairweather, an assistant to longtime head coach Elton Goodwin. “These guys rallied, came back on Monday and just grinded.”
South Kitsap loaded the bases in the fifth inning and future Seattle Mariners infielder Willie Bloomquist chased everyone home with a three-run double.
The Wolves went on to win that game 3-2 and then beat Hudson’s Bay, 6-3, behind Garrett Fisher’s six-inning, three-hit performance to advance to the 3A state semifinals. Ellison shut down Auburn, 9-2, and then they defeated Richland, 13-5, with Zach Fisher getting the win in relief in the championship game to finish a perfect 23-0 for the season.
The coaching staff knew it had star power in Bloomquist, Ellison and catcher Ryan Smith, but otherwise had a collection of players that were new to the varsity squad.
“We didn’t know what we were going to put around them,” Fairweather said. “A lot of these guys were JV the year before. We weren’t real sure who fit where and what we were going to do. But they knew.”
Bloomquist went on to hit .487 that year and Ellison finished with a 10-0 record, fanning 124 batters in 74 innings. The team also had other All-Narrows players such as Adam Hoem — who batted .420 with 20 RBI and had to fill in at catcher after Smith suffered an arm injury midseason and moved to first base — Jeff Orser, who hit .352, Adam Walsh, a .357 hitter and Garrett Fisher, who batted .369.
1961 West Bremerton football team
Inducted along with the 1996 South Kitsap baseball team was the 1961 West Bremerton football squad. The Wildcats were voted state champions by the Associated Press and United Press International polls after an 8-1 season.
The team had several players on the All-Capital League’s first team including Steve Bramwell, Alan Waley, Hershel Housel, Dan Scott, John McKnight and Bob Beller. Second-teamers included Tim Derflinger and Fred Kegel and Ed Aronin, Jack Davies and Lee Crawford were honorable mentions.
Since there was no playoff system back in those days, state champions were decided upon by the press, which meant teams had to win high-profile games to be considered.
“You had to make an impression,” said Bramwell, the team’s 1,000-yard rusher.
The Capital League was one of the state’s toughest in those days and the Wildcats had big back-to-back wins over Aberdeen and Lincoln that vaulted them to the top of the polls.
The Aberdeen game was of particular performance, as head coach Chuck Semancik had previously been the coach there. The Bobcats were ranked in the top two had a pair of “hotshot” running backs and a college-bound quarterback, but West Bremerton smoked Aberdeen 42-12.
“I think all of us played the game of our lives that day,” Bramwell said.
Lincoln also had several players that would go on to play at the next level, but West Bremerton prevailed 21-14, putting them at the top of the rankings.
Stephanie Davis Malone — Golf
Bainbridge Island native Stephanie Davis Malone’s gold career got off to an inauspicious start.
Her two older brothers, who were tournament golfers, noticed that very few girls were playing junior golf in Washington and told Stephanie that if she participated she could win a medal. Her first tournament was at Broadmoor Golf Club in Seattle, where she has worked for the past 19 years as a club pro.
Davis Malone shot a 76 over nine holes, but that was good enough to qualify for the district tournament, where she shot a 326 over 36 holes.
“I shot a blistering 165, according to my mother that included 13 whiffs,” Davis Malone told the crowd. “But no worries, I improved. I knocked it down to 161 the following day and I won that medal. I got third place out of three participants, but I still have the medal.”
From there it was summers spent improving her game at Wing Point Golf & Country Club. She eventually won the Pacific Northwest Golf Association Women’s Amateur in 1988 and finished second to Pat Hurst at the 1990 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Davis Malone went on to play golf for four years while getting an education at Stanford University.
Mark Keel — Football
Mark Keel may be back on the stage a second time someday after his head coaching career at Central Kitsap is through. The Clover Park High School alum made headlines last year for picking up his 100th victory with the Cougars.
But Saturday was all about his two years at Olympic College.
During Keel’s sophomore year, the Rangers won the league championship and he racked up 27 receptions for 593 yards, earning a scholarship to the University of Arizona, where he starred for two seasons and was one of the most productive tight end’s in school history. He had a short, injury plagued NFL career in the late 1980s.
Keel spoke of being unhappy in Kitsap during his time at Olympic College, but after returning to the area to coach at Central Kitsap in 1996, he now, ironically, cannot imagine being anywhere else.
“I think I will die in Kitsap County,” Keel said. “I really do.”
Craig Smith — Soccer
Craig Smith is one of the founding fathers of soccer in North Kitsap.
He is currently the head coach for both the boys and girls programs at Kingston High School, a position he has held since the school opened in 2007. Under his watch, the boys team has won the Olympic League seven times in 11 seasons and has reached the state playoffs five times. The girls team has also reached the postseason six times.
Smith was previously the longtime boys head soccer coach at North Kitsap for 14 years and also coached at Chimacum and Port Townsend in the interim. He and his brother Tony also ran The Chuggers, a North Kitsap men’s soccer team which has competed in the over-50 national championship twice.
He also helped establish FC Kitsap, a select soccer program.
In looking back on his long career, Smith said the greatest joy for him was simply seeing the players he coached grow throughout their careers.
“I hadn’t really stopped to think about it until I was given this honor almost hard to comprehend,” Smith said. “I am a privileged man.”
Nancy Kelstrup — Dick Todd Officials Award
Nancy Kelstrup was a high school referee for three season when she was unexpectedly pulled into her first college game.
Kelstrup was an assistant coach at Olympic College in 2000 when Edmonds Community College came across the water for a game only to find there were no officials. The Edmonds coach was angry and refused to reschedule the game, it had to be played that night.
When head coach Rick Peters noted his assistant was a high school referee and that the team’s scorekeeper also had limited experience, they became the two-person crew for the evening.
“I fouled out our big low post,” Kelstrup said. “Dick Todd came up to me after the game and said, ‘Great job, Nancy. You’re ready for the next level.
Kelstrup then spent the next 16 years as a Northwest Athletic College Referee, retiring from both high school and college in 2018. She officiated at the NWAC state championships in 2008 and 2009 and also was a referee for the 2011 and 2013 state tournaments. In 2015, Kelstrup was named one of the top 10 officials from the NWAC North.
In accepting the award at the banquet, Kelstrup encouraged everyone who can no longer play to pick up a whistle and officiate. Games can’t happen without referees, she said, and it’s a good way to give back to the sport you grew up playing.
“The thing I would like you to think about is how much has sports done [for you], look at the knowledge you have in this sport, if you can’t play anymore, officiate!” Kelstrup said.
“It is the best seat in the house and you get in free,” she added.
Brent Chriswell — Wrestling
Brent Chriswell is among the all-time great in West Sound wrestling, finishing his career at South Kitsap with a 107-3 record, which included 88 pins. He was a runner up at the state tournament as a sophomore in the 160-pound weight class, losing to one of the best wrestlers in the state. He followed him up to 171 pounds and won a state title over the same wrestler his junior year and then won another state championship at 189 the following year, capping a 39-0 season.
Chriswell went on to wrestle at Arizona State and Boise State. He is currently serving in the military and is stationed on the east coast.
Steve Endresen — Basketball
One of the all-time greats from the Bainbridge basketball program, Steve Endresen, a 1970 graduate, is still 14th all time among West Sound players in scoring with 1,202 points despite only playing three years on varsity. The 6-foot-6 Endresen scored a career-high 41 points against Sequim in the 1969-1970 opener and finished the year averaging 27.5 points per game and was No. 2 in the state that year in scoring.
Marla Morey — Multi-Sport Athlete/Coach
Marla Morey excelled at several sports at South Kitsap, from which she graduated in 1974. She participated in the Girls Athletic Association in volleyball, tennis, basketball and track. Morey went on to start on the volleyball and basketball teams for two years at Olympic College, followed by two years at Central Washington while she got her degree in physical education.
That degree has served her well, as she has been a teacher and coach for 36 years in the Central Kitsap School District, working at Fairview Junior High, Central Kitsap and Olympic High School.
Lauren Haas Peters — Softball
Lauren Haas Peters was a 10-time letter winner at Olympic High School in soccer, basketball and softball, but it was the latter sport in which she excelled the most.
Haas Peters went on to play softball at Southern Illinois University, where she played on top 25 teams and twice went to the NCAA Tournament. For her career, she hit .320 with 24 home runs, 33 doubles and 102 RBI, all of which rank in the top ten in school history. In her senior season, she was named the Missouri Valley Conference MVP and was a first-team member of Region 8.
Rick Smith — Rex Brown Award for Distinguished Service
A graduate of East Bremerton, Olympic College and the University of Washington, Rick Smith was instrumental in the effort to bring the collegiate summer baseball to Kitsap County.
Smith led efforts to create a Public Facilities District in Kitsap County, which ultimately funded three projects in the early 2000s, including money allocated for Gene Lobe Field, which would become the home of the Kitsap Bluejackets, which Smith, in part, also founded. The team was eventually sold and moved to Port Angeles.
Smith also coached Babe Ruth baseball, pee wee and fastpitch in the 1980s through the early 1990s and owned a law firm in Silverdale. He was also one of the founders of the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce.
Doug Smith — Football Coach
Doug Smith’s son Alex might be the more recognizable Smith on the national sporting scene, but Doug had a relatively short and memorable stay in Kitsap as a football coach at Olympic High School for seven seasons.
Smith went 35-1 in the regular season in his first six years at Olympic, including a 22-game league winning streak, which is believed to be a league record. The Trojans went 11-1 twice (1983 and 1986), 9-2 (1984) and 10-1 (1985). Olympic won the league title four times during his tenure.
He left Olympic in 1987 to become the principal at Helix High School in San Diego, where his son starred and went on to Utah and the NFL.
Ryan Young — Track and Field
Ryan Young twice won the state championship in the javelin throw for North Kitsap, including setting a state-meet record in 2005, and then went on to win at the Oregon Championships with a throw for 202 feet, 11 inches. Young also won a Narrows League MVP in basketball for the Vikings in 2005 after averaging 21 points and 16 rebounds per game.
Young continued his track and field career at University of California Berkeley where he set a school record with a 250-foot, 10-inch throw in 2009 and ended up placing fifth in at the Pac-10 championships. He has trained at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2016.
Pete Elswick — Football
Pete Elswick was a star fullback and linebacker on the 1969 West Bremerton team that was ranked third in the final 3A poll after a 9-1 season under legendary coach Chuck Semancik. Elswick went on to be a three-year starter at offensive guard at the University of Washington, despite being relatively undersized at 245 pounds. Elswick was an honorable mention in the Pac-8 as a sophomore on the 8-3 Huskies.
Brock Stodden — Boxing
Nicknamed the “Bremerton Butcher,” Brock Stodden was a two-time bronze winner at the National Junior Olympics as an amateur in 1989 and 1990 and went on to a Tacoma Golden Gloves title in 1991.
He turned pro and eventually won a championship belt, fulfilling a goal to honor a friend who had died of leukemia years prior. In 2004, he won a Canadian-American-Mexican middleweight championship. He finished his career with an 18-17-1 record with nine knockouts, but was 17-10-1 at one point. He once fought Rudy Markussen of Denmark, who was at the time the No. 4-ranked super middle weight in the world and his career regularly took him all over the United States as well as Canada and Germany.
Stodden currently works for the City of Bremerton.
Steve Reischman — Football
Steve Reischman is another West Bremerton alum who played for Chuck Semancik in the late 1960s. He went on to play at Olympic College and then Central Washington as an offesinve lineman.
He returned to Kitsap in 1974, becoming one of the top assistants for longtime South Kitsap football coach Ed Fisher during the program’s heyday, serving for 26 years. Reischman was the athletic director at South for six years before retiring in 2005. Reischman also taught science and was a wrestling coach.
Boyd McCaslin — Basketball
McCaslin was a basketball and baseball player at Bremerton High School, graduating in 1943 before moving on to play college basketball at Hobart College, Dartmouth and finally the University of Michigan. McCaslin was a starter on the 1948 Big 10 championship team and played in the NCAA Tournament that year.
Aaron Capps — Motorsports
Aaron Capps was a longtime car racer and mechanic who worked in Indianapolis for a time before coming back to the Northwest to become a partner at the Thomas Lincoln-Mercury Dealership. He eventually became the owner of Thomas Motors, which owns Advantage Nissan and Advantage Used Car and Truck Center on Auto Center Boulevard in Bremerton. Each year, he donates a truck to the winner of the Great Duck Race at Whaling Days in Silverdale.
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MKrulishKDN.