BY CHRIS COWBROUGH
S-E Sports Editor
Kettle Falls High (1-1, 2-1) opened the 2014 high school baseball season last week at home. The home cooking agreed with the Bulldogs, who won two of three games to get the season underway.
KFHS opened with a 6-5 come-from-behind win over visiting Omak of the Caribou-Trail League last Friday. Junior Devin Thompson got the win in relief.
The Bulldogs split with visiting Chewelah last Saturday in the Northeast A League openers for both schools. The Cougars won the opener, 6-2, and KFHS came back for an 8-5 second game win.
Thompson, one of Kettleâ€™s key performers this spring, pitched 2 2/3 innings of relief against Omak and picked up the win.
Also getting pitching time for KFHS were senior Austin Anderson, senior Jessie Crape and junior Cole Wren.
Kettle Falls committed four errors.
Lucas Shrier drilled a two- strike, two-out single with the bases loaded that drove in the tying and go-ahead runs.
In the opener Saturday against rebuilding Chewelah, Kettle Falls managed only six hits off left-hander Hansen.
â€śWe struggled with him,â€ť conceded first year KFHS head coach Justin Collier. â€śHe threw a lot of junk and really kept us off-balance. Hats off to him.â€ť
Wren (0-1) took the loss for Kettle Falls. He and reliever Anderson (who came on in the fifth inning) scattered 12 Chewelah hits.
The Cougars committed five errors.
Kettle Falls was able to get its offense untracked in game two, scoring runs in all but the fifth inning.
Junior Brady Hansen led Kettle with three doubles and an RBI. Brody Miland added a two-run triple. Anderson had a pair of RBIs.
Hansen (1-0) went the distance and picked up the win. He scattered eight hits.
Kettle will travel to Riverside on Tuesday for a single NEA game (4 p.m. start).
The Bulldogs will return home on Wednesday to host Medical Lake. That single game starts at 4 p.m.
KFHS is off on Saturday, but will return to NEA play on Tuesday, April 1 at Lakeside. The doubleheader starts at 2 p.m.
Collier, a 1998 Kettle Falls High School graduate who played second base and in the outfield for longtime KFHS coach Mike Fredrickson, takes over the reigns of Bulldog baseball this spring. He replaces Landon Johnson.
One thing that Collier has been able to do is get a better turnout of players. The Bulldogs have struggled in recent seasons with turnout..
Thatâ€™s not the case this spring. Collier and assistant coaches Justin Carstens, Adison Mortenson and Cliff Tucker greeted 26 players when practice sessions got underway in early March. Several of those players are former players or returned to baseball after several years away from the game.
â€śItâ€™s good to see the turnout,â€ť admitted Collier, a Maintenance Supervisor at Boise who has been actively involved in Kettle Falls youth baseball. â€śAnd itâ€™s great that we have some players back who havenâ€™t played in awhile.â€ť
Among the key performers will be left-hander Austin Anderson, who will play first base and pitch. He already has 11 strikeouts in five innings of work on the mound.
Lucas Shrier returns to baseball and the KFHS outfield, along with fellow senior Jessie Crape. Heâ€™s another lefty who will play in the outfield and get some innings on the mound.
Strong-armed senior Michael McIntosh will likely see time in the outfield and may get some work on the mound.
Speedy Kyle Hyde will patrol centerfield.
The junior class is led by Brady Hansen (every day catcher), Devin Thompson, Cole Wren, Casey Hall and Brody Miland.
Collier said that Wren will likely be the Bulldogsâ€™ top pitcher.
Junior infielder Jamison Walker also returns.
Collier is looking forward to seeing a more consistently competitive product on the field this spring.
â€śThe Northeast A League is tough, but I would like to think weâ€™ll be competitive,â€ť Collier said. â€śIt would be nice to finish in the top fourâ€¦itâ€™s a good group and we have a little depth in the pitching.â€ť
Collier admits that there is a learning curve as a new coach.
â€śBut Iâ€™m excited,â€ť he said.