In a game that matched the afternoon weather of the Methow Valley last Tuesday (March 26), the Liberty Bell Mountain Lions were warm and sunny early, but then succumbed to a late-inning rally as the skies grew darker and the air got colder, dropping a 9-8 decision to the visiting Tonasket Tigers.
Hopes were bright under the afternoon sun that drenched Mountain Lion Field as Liberty Bell jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the second inning. First baseman Shay Crandall led off by legging out a slow rolling infield hit to shortstop, and advanced to second when Brady Moriarty was hit by Tonasket starter Benny Williams. A wild pitch advanced Crandall and Moriarty each one base and they scored on a ringing double to left center by Dusty Patterson. Noah Holston picked up an RBI, driving home Patterson. The inning ended with the bases loaded, and leaving the promise of more to come offensively.
Both teams went quietly in the third inning, Tonasket responding in the top of the fourth. Things started with a “hot corner” diving catch of a line drive at third base by Liberty Bell’s Sam Neitlich, off the bat of Tanner Anderson. Tigers Riley Haug and Williams both reached on singles, Haug scoring on a wild pitch and Williams crossing the plate on a single by Tiler Morris, making the score 3-2.
Liberty Bell starting pitcher Peter Aspholm went four innings and struck out seven.
The Mountain Lions extended the lead to 4-2 in the fifth when Quinn Wengerd reached first on a throwing error by the Tonasket second baseman, advanced to second on a wild pitch, then scored on a throwing error by the Tonasket shortstop.
The league-leading Tigers responded in the top of the sixth inning with three runs to grab the lead for the first time at 5-4 as the sun fell behind Patterson Mountain and the temperature dropped with it. Morris tagged Liberty Bell reliever David Kominak with a two-run single, later scoring the third run on an overthrow at first base.
The Mountain Lions jumped back into the lead at 7-5 with a three-run rally of their own in the bottom of the sixth. Patterson doubled for the second time, again to left center, Noah Holston driving him across with a follow-up single. Cole Rhoades walked and later scored on Quinn Wengerd’s RBI single.
Tonasket seized the lead back in the top of the seventh. Dawson Bretz led off with a walk and advanced to second on a groundout to third by Tanner Anderson. Four straight singles off of Crandall, who moved to the mound at the top of the inning, and a throwing error on a pickoff attempt at third sent four Tigers across the plate and on to the bottom of the inning with a 9-7 lead.
Sam Neitlich led off the last inning with a single, Cole Rhodes reached on another Tiger error, advancing Neitlich, and Leo Shaw reached base sending Neitlich home, but it was all Liberty Bell could muster and the rally fell short, 9-8.
“That was a tough one,” said Mountain Lion first year-coach David Aspholm. “Our team played well, just couldn’t quite get the win,” he continued. “We hit well and scored enough runs to win, just a couple of things to work on.”
“This was our fifth day playing or practicing baseball outside and it showed — on offense and defense,” coach Aspholm added. “Yet, even in a loss there are highlights and positives. Shay Crandall, Noah Holston and Dusty Patterson each had two hits and the latter two had two RBIs apiece. From a coaching perspective I really liked how are whole team stayed positive throughout the game.”
“We couldn’t have played this game today without the amazing work of our grounds crew who cleared and prepped the field for play, especially Rob Crandall, Anthony Rispone, Lew Holston and Myron Wengerd,” Aspholm noted. Earlier, Palm Construction cleared snow off the baseball and softball fields.
Tonasket 0 0 0 2 0 3 4 9 9 4
Liberty Bell 0 3 0 0 1 3 1 8 10 1