By Mike Maltais

The Liberty Bell High School varsity baseball boys found the wet diamond conditions unplayable at Pateros last Friday (March 28), but they had already enjoyed their share of excitement three days earlier when they almost mounted a last-minute rally in an 8-5 loss against Okanogan.

The non-league game against the 1A Caribou Trail League Bulldogs started routinely enough with both teams scoreless after two innings at Okanogan, led by a southpaw pitcher who befuddled the Liberty Bell batters. The lefty struck out 14 Mountain Lions through the first six innings as Okanogan began to pull away through the third, fourth and fifth.

“They scored three runs in the third inning, three in the fourth and two in the fifth,” said coach Don Calvert.

While the Bulldogs only connected for six hits during the entire game, they converted several of nine walks given up by Liberty Bell pitchers into scores to take an 8-0 lead going into the top of the seventh inning.

The Mountain Lions use these early season games “to find out who can do what,” Calvert  said.

With that strategy in mind, the coaches put four pitchers through their paces, starting with Chip Jones in the first two innings and then giving Sam Thomsen a turn. Derek Alumbaugh relieved Thomsen and Shane Higbee closed for Liberty Bell.

When the Bulldogs relieved their starting pitcher, Liberty Bell responded with a rally about as late in a game as it gets.

“The seventh inning started out strange,” Calvert recalled. “We had two quick outs and then Shane struck out on a passed ball that got away from the catcher, and Shane beat the throw to first base.”

With just one out remaining, the Mountain Lions now had a man on first.

“Then the Okanogan pitcher walked a couple of batters, hit another, and we strung three hits together,” Calvert said. “By the time we were done we had five runs.”

Jones and Milo Holston led off with two solid hits that drove in runs. David Dinsmore III connected with a line drive that brought Jones home, but Holston was tagged out as he tried to cross home plate behind Jones. Two players — potential runs six and seven — were left on base.

“The mood in the players’ dugouts was striking,” Calvert remembered of the last-minute turnaround. “Ours was raucous and wild while Okanogan’s was quiet.”

In the end, it was the walks that told the story.

“We had five runs on five hits from Jones, Holston, Dinsmore, Alumbaugh, and Cole Darwood,” Calvert said. “They had eight runs on six hits. When a team scores more runs than they have hits, there’s something wrong. They walked 10 times in the game and we walked four. That’s the difference right there.”

Liberty Bell hosts the first of three home league games at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday (April 8) against Manson. Bridgeport will be in town April 10, followed by a double header against Lake Roosevelt starting at 11 a.m. on April 12.