Sean Robertson couldn’t wait. The 11-year-old Washington fan stood at the main entrance of the new Husky Ballpark just after 4:30 p.m. Friday and begged for someone to let him in.
Robertson and his dad, Scott, didn’t have to wait long for the gates to open. About 90 minutes before UW’s first pitch against Arizona, father and son became the first members of the general public formally admitted into the new $15 million park. Once inside, they scoped out the scene before settling in their $15 reserved seats at section 12, row 2, seats 4 and 5 behind home plate.
“Oh, it’s fantastic,” the young Robertson said. “I don’t think they could’ve done much better.”
On a crisp, clear evening on the shore of Lake Washington, several generations of UW players returned to a site long derided as the worst in the Pac-12 to finally celebrate a ballpark that UW coach Lindsay Meggs now believes is among the best on the West Coast.
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The park was, well, a hit before an announced crowd of 1,302. Fans in the popular club-level suite ran out of champagne in the second inning, and the Huskies provided more pop on the field in the late innings with an 8-7 comeback victory over Arizona to open a key series.
UW right-hander Jared Fisher, a Newport High School product, delivered first-pitch fastball for a strike at 6:07 p.m. Two pitches later, Arizona’s Scott Kingery doubled to left for the park’s first hit. Kingery scored the first run on Kevin Newman’s RBI single later in the inning.
Around the park, any early glitches weren’t noticeable to the casual observer. The scene was idyllic: Mount Rainer sparkling like a Bob Ross painting well beyond right; sailboats drifting to the left just a few hundred yards beyond the outfield fence.
On the new Field Turf, however, the Huskies’ early glitches were hard to miss: a routine pop-up dropping between infielders; an outfielder throwing to the wrong base; a pitcher forgetting to cover first. And that was all in the top of the first inning, in which Arizona scored four runs on six hits and those three Husky head-scratchers.
“The first inning for us was about as ugly as it could be,” Meggs said. “I don’t know if it was nerves; they were just so excited to get out here and do their thing and show people they can play with anybody.”
The Huskies (14-5-1, 3-1 Pac-12) rallied with a five-run second inning, highlighted by Andrew Ely’s two-run triple off the wall in right-center off Arizona ace James Farris, one of the stars on the Wildcats’ 2012 College World Series championship team.
UW catcher Austin Rei had a career-high four RBI — after entering the game with three RBI on the season — including a two-run double in the sixth that gave the Huskies the lead for good at 8-7.
“It’s our first time playing here — it’s freakin’ awesome — so you have to expect the jitters a little bit,” Rei said. “But we definitely settled down.”
Brandon Choate (1-0), a Mountlake Terrace product who earned the win with 21
3 perfect innings of relief, said the Huskies have adopted a “shock the world” mantra this season.
Picked to finish 10th in the Pac-12, the Huskies took two of three at Arizona State last week, UW’s first series win in Tempe since 2004. That was also the last year UW made the NCAA postseason — which, with the new facilities, has become the new stated standard for the program.
“This place,” Fisher said on Thursday, “is going to put UW baseball on the map.”