By Gene Helfman
Special to the Weekly
On an island with a small student population, exchange students are often essential to fielding competitive teams in many sports, whether or not they have played the sport at home.
Soccer, football and basketball in the fall, golf and baseball in the spring, all have depended on exchange students to complete a roster. And if you need a(nother) reason to support the student exchange program on Lopez, just ask baseball coach Jeremiah Johnson.
Toni Ahonen, a Finnish exchange student, drove in four runs and scored once in an 11-9 loss to Darrington at home on April 29.
Ahonen tripled with the bases loaded in the third inning and then scored, and he singled with an RBI in the fifth inning. Ahonen accounted for more than half of the Lobos’ runs. In the Finnish version of baseball, called “pesäpallo,” the pitcher stands near home plate and tosses the ball straight up. Finnish batters don’t see many 60 and 70 mph fastballs. Lopez’s other hits were distributed throughout the squad. The Goodrich brothers both had multi-hit days. Gavin had three hits and Harrison two, including a double. Vinny Kramer, Anchor Brant, Austin Reinmuth, Conor Dye, Owen Akopiantz and Jorgen Sande — a Norwegian exchange student who had never seen a baseball game before joining the squad – all had hits.
Kramer, Reinmuth and Dye shared pitching responsibilities. Dye went to the mound in the fifth inning, with Darrington ahead 11-6 and held the Loggers scoreless through three innings, settling down after walking the first three batters he faced. He struck out the next two and speared a grounder for the third out. Lopez put runners on base in just about every inning but couldn’t push runs across. Lopez rallied in the seventh with three more runs but fell short of a victory. The bottom line: if you call yourself a Lopez sports fan, host an exchange student.