Bulldogs face NWC, Riverside this week
Kettle Falls High got its snow-bound and water-soaked early baseball season underway late last week. The Bulldogs, with only 14 players, most who haven’t logged a whole lot of varsity time, lost a tough 4-2 decision (eight innings) to Northeast A League favorite Chewelah last Friday and swept host Liberty Saturday in a Northeast 2B (Bi-County League) doubleheader at Spangle.
KFHS plated 37 runs in 16-0, 21-9 routs of the Lancers.
First-year KFHS head coach Landon Johnston was pleased with how well his young team competed in their first forays on real grass, a dirt infield and in front of live pitching.
“We played well against a very good Chewelah team and their top pitcher,” Johnston said of the tough eight-inning loss to a Chewelah team that is one of the favorites to win a NEA title this spring. “And while Liberty didn’t provide quite the competition (that Chewelah did), we played pretty well and looked pretty comfortable at the plate.
“Against Chewelah, I think we surprised a few people and probably Chewelah too. It was a good ballgame. We had their attention.”
Kettle Falls junior Tyler Vining and Chewelah ace Caleb Wiebe locked horns in something of a classic pitcher’s duel in the opener at Kettle Falls.
Vining, who hasn’t pitched much in the past two seasons because of knee issues, likely turned a few heads of his own against a veteran Chewelah line-up. The big right-hander struck out seven, scattered five singles and issued three walks in his six innings of work. Vining was never in serious trouble against the Cougars.
Chewelah scraped together its only (unearned) run off Vining in the fourth inning. The Cougars took advantage of a leadoff walk, an infield error and a single.
“Tyler did a great job,” Johnston said. “He is a real competitor, but he was getting tired by the sixth inning and he had thrown more pitches than we had planned anyway (81).”
Left-hander Brent McNeil came on in relief of Vining and took the loss. He issued four walks in his two innings of work. McNeil surrendered three hits, struck out three and gave up three earned runs.
Chewelah pushed across three runs in the top of the eighth inning at the Kettle Falls High junior varsity field to take a 4-1 lead. The Bulldogs rallied for one run in the bottom half of the inning on a Brandon Thomas RBI single, but the Cougars were able to escape with a season-opening win.
Two squeeze plays in the eighth hurt the Bulldogs, according to Johnston.
Chewelah took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning. The Bulldogs tied the game in the bottom of the sixth inning on an RBI single by Thomas to centerfield that plated freshman second baseman Devin Thompson, who had walked and advanced to second base on Logan Cook’s single.
Thomas, this week’s Kettle Falls Player of the Week, was 3-4 against Chewelah with a pair of RBIs. Thompson had a single and scored twice.
Kettle’s first foray onto a real field and their initial opportunity against live pitching meant that putting the ball in play was sporadic. The Bulldogs struck out 15 times.
Not enough live pitching yet
“That will get a lot better,” Johnston promised. “It was a lot better against Liberty. It’s just a lack of seeing live pitching…that was a big difference in the game.”
In their first Northeast 2B action of the spring, the Bulldogs had no trouble scoring runs against Liberty’s pitching staff and defense.
The opening game at Spangle went only four innings. The Bulldogs plated 15 runs in the third inning, taking advantage of eight walks by Liberty pitching and six singles. The big blow was a Thomas double.
KFHS collected 10 hits in the first game.
Cook was 3-3, with a pair of RBIs and two runs scored. Thomas was 2-3 with a double and two runs scored. The junior also had a pair of RBIs. Shortstop Nathan Disque was 2-4 with a pair of stolen bases and two runs scored.
Thomas picked up the win on the hill, going the distance and giving up only three hits. He issued two walks and fanned nine.
“Brandon was definitely locked in,” Johnston said. “He was very solid.”
Kettle Falls committed only one error.
The second game was more of the same for Kettle Falls, who plated one run in the first inning and blew the game open with six more in the second. The Bulldogs had a double and a triple in the second inning.
Reuben Winter got the start for Kettle Falls. He was pulled in the second inning (1 1/3) after giving up six runs.
Winter struck out four, but issued four walks.
Junior Jeff Thomas came on in relief and pitched one inning (three runs, two hits, three walks and two strikeouts).
Cook pitched the final 2 2/3 and picked up the win. Like Winter and Thomas, Cook was wild. The junior didn’t give up a run, but hit three batters and issued three walks. He surrendered a lone single.
Come from behind win in second game at Spangle
Kettle had to come from behind in the second game to pick up the win. The Bulldogs trailed 9-7 in the third inning before blowing the game open with six runs in the fourth and eight more in the fifth inning.
KFHS took advantage of four walks in the fourth. Key hits came in the form of Vining’s RBI double and freshman catcher/first baseman Brady Hansen’s RBI single.
Winter’s triple and Hansen’s double were the big blows in the fifth inning for Kettle Falls.
Vining was 4-5 in the game (two doubles) and drove in three runs. Cook and Hansen were both 2-4.
Kettle Falls’ stole 11 bases in the three game set last week (in as many attempts).
“Overall, I was very pleased with the way we played,” Johnston said. “And I was impressed with the (crowd) support. We had a good crowd at home (against Chewelah) and had a lot of fans at Liberty.
“The kids are excited…it’s all about improving every day…we certainly have a lot to work on.”
Kettle Falls traveled to Colbert to face Northwest Christian on Tuesday in a 2 p.m. doubleheader.
The Bulldogs will return home on Thursday for a non-league game with Riverside. Game time is 4 p.m.