Aspholm, Holston repeat as first-team honorees

By Don Nelson

It might have been both frustrating and encouraging for fans of Liberty Bell High School’s baseball team to follow the state 2B championship game last weekend.

Frustrating because the two finalists, Brewster and Tri-Cities Prep, were the only teams the Mountain Lions were not able to beat this year (Tri-Cities steamrolled Brewster like it steamrolled everyone else, 14-7, in the title game).

Encouraging because Liberty Bell can count itself among the elite in the state, with a solid nucleus of talent coming back next year despite the departure of seniors Finlay Holston, Quinton Knox and Reid Wengerd.

Finlay Holston

Peter Aspholm

Holston was named to the All-League first team (along with junior Peter Aspholm); Knox was named to the All-League second team (along with junior Cole Rhoades); and Wengerd was an honorable mention along with junior Leo Shaw and sophomore Shay Crandall.

Aspholm was also named Pitcher of the Year, and Liberty Bell won the league’s sportsmanship award.

Holston and Aspholm were also named to the first All-League team last year. Wengerd and Crandall earned honorable mention last year.

Brewster’s Joe Taylor was named Player of the Year for the second consecutive year.

The Mountain Lions’ season ended in the first round of the state tournament with a 12-1 loss to Tri-Cities Prep, in which Liberty Bell managed just two hits, by Holston and Crandall.

“We knew we had to go out and play a good game against Tri-Cities Prep and we just weren’t able to do it,” Liberty Bell coach Michael Wilbur said in retrospect. “It’s a shame that our season ended that way, but I think our guys can be proud of what they accomplished this year. They carried themselves well and competed against some very strong ball clubs.”

“We lost to two teams this year, and both of them are in the final four at state,”  Wilbur continued. “Getting to the point where we confident, comfortable and able to play the way we know we’re capable of playing against teams like that is the next challenge.”

Of the Sportsmanship Award, Wilbur said “it was well deserved. This is good bunch of guys. They’re a pleasure to be around and they work hard.”

“We are losing three guys who will be hard to replace,” Wilbur said. “Finlay Holston is one of the best players we’ve had at Liberty Bell and contributed to the team in so many ways. He’s looking to walk on at Davidson, a Division I program, and I think he’s fully capable of doing it.”

“Quinton Knox overcame a torn ACL and damaged meniscus to even step on the field this year and then went out and proved that he was one of the best athletes on the team, and probably the whole league,” Wilbur said. “He pitched very effectively and played a fantastic center field, making plays that most high school guys don’t even come close to making. Reid Wengerd was an absolute rock for us this year. So dependable, so positive and such a good teammate. Reid had some huge hits and some big plays on defense and has the kind of team-first mentality that speaks volumes about his maturity and character.”

Wilbur said he expects the Mountain Lions, who finished second in league play this year, to be back near the top again in 2019.

“Brewster is going to be tough, as always, but we’ll take care of business against the rest of the league and look forward to our chance to compete with the Bears,” the coach said. “Our guys are going to work hard to get bigger and stronger and I expect that many of our younger players will be ready to step up to play more important roles. Crucially, next year’s group of seniors is very strong, with Peter Aspholm, Sam Neitlich, Leo Shaw and Cole Rhoades all having contributed to our success this year in a big way. With those guys leading the charge this team is in good shape.”

Liberty Bell finished with a 16-4 record. Holston batted .500 for the season and drove in 26 runs. He had the Mountain Lions’ only two home runs. Shaw batted in 23 runs and hit .306. Aspholm had a .373 batting average with 18 RBIs, Rhoades batted .341 and led the team in doubles with 7, and Crandall drove in 19 runs with a .279 batting average.

Aspholm was 5-2 as a pitcher and posted an ERA of 1.80. He led the pitching staff with 93 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings. Crandall was 3-1 with a 1.09 ERA. Knox was 2-0 with an ERA of 0.93.