By Rick Lewis
Liberty Bell High School opened the 2021 abbreviated baseball season at home with a double-header sweep of the Lake Roosevelt Raiders on Saturday (April 17). Brilliant pitching, solid defensive play and an offensive onslaught were the keys to the routing the Raiders 11-2 and 14-0 under near-perfect sunny, 70 degree conditions.
Dusty Patterson opened his senior season with a one-hit gem in the five-inning second game, shutting out the Raiders under the 10-run mercy rule. The only hit came in the first inning, Tyler Nicholson reaching on a ground ball through the hole on the left side of the infield. Liberty Bell catcher Noah Holston nailed Nicholson with a near-perfect throw to second baseman Eli Neitlich a couple of pitches later to foil a base-stealing attempt.
Only three more Raiders would reach base, on a second-inning walk and two Mountain Lion defensive errors in the third inning. Patterson would strike out seven of the 17 batters he faced pitching, and was 5-for-7 at the plate, reaching base seven times including walks, over the two games.
Junior David Kominak also pitched well, going five full innings in the seven-inning opener, giving up only two hits and striking out four on his way the win. Neitlich threw the final two innings in relief, giving up one hit and striking out four of the seven batters he faced. Sawyer Crandall supported the pitching effort at the plate, hitting a perfect 3-for-3 in the opener.
“There were lots of highlights today,” Coach David Aspholm said. “Three double plays, one with the bases loaded, and I’m really happy with the pitching today. Good things happen when you throw strikes.”
“We also played three eighth-graders today,” he pointed out, “which shows that the future of this team is pretty exciting.”
Of note among those pre-frosh players were Quincy Scott at first base, Lucien Paz in center field and Damon Alumbaugh behind the plate at catcher. Scott, who punched a hit in his first high school at bat, was solid defensively in the second game, catching everything thrown at him and tracking down a foul ball for an out. Alumbaugh also went 4-for-7 at the plate over the two games.
Paz looked the part of a seasoned veteran, getting the ball into the infield after an apparent catch was ruled a hit, and preventing the runner from advancing beyond first. Paz dove for the sinking ball and caught it, only to have the ball bounce up out of his glove. Sprawled on the ground, he reached out with his bare hand and nabbed the ball before it reached the ground. But the umpire’s ruling was that Paz trapped the ball before it bounced. “Yeah, I caught the ball,” was Paz’s post game response to the inevitable reporter’s question.
Next up for Liberty Bell was a late afternoon trip to Quincy on Tuesday (April 20) after press time. There is a JV home game Thursday afternoon (April 22) at 4:30 p.m., and the varsity travels to Royal City for an 11 a.m. double-header on Saturday (April 24). The next home action for the Mountain Lions is slated for 11 a.m. on May 1, when they entertain the Tonasket Tigers in a double-header.
On Saturday (April 17), the 4A Wenatchee Panther C squad defeated Liberty Bell, 5-1, at Mountain Lion Field.
It’s not often a 4A class high school makes an appearance at Liberty Bell. Indeed, the last time in recent memory would be in 2003 when Eastmont traveled up-valley for a cross country meet at Bear Creek Golf Course.
Somehow, in this wacky year of swapped seasons, including spring before winter, it seems only appropriate that the Methow Valley campus hosted the Wenatchee Panthers of the Big 9 Athletic Conference.
While it was the visitors’ C squad, sheer numbers played a role the loss for the outmanned, yet determined Mountain Lions. Of the 16 available roster players, coach Dave Marz had only 13 available at kickoff, with three on the injured list, and by halftime that number had fallen to the requisite 11 with early game injuries to Rowan Darwood and Peter Kominak.
Nevertheless, the Lions played solid defense through the opening half, giving up two goals on what Marz described as “two small mistakes.” The inability to substitute players began to take its toll late in the first half, and throughout the second half Wenatchee platooned subs to take advantage of their fresh legs.
Early in the second half, Wyatt Belcher broke the ice for Liberty Bell A foul called on the Panthers in the goal box set up a penalty kick for the Lions. Senior co-captain Belcher drilled the ball into the back of the net and the home team was back in the match at 1-2 at about the 50-minute mark, 10 minutes into the second stanza.
From that point on through the middle of the half, the Panthers took over, again running groups of players in as substitutions. The Mountain Lions, while working hard, seemed to just run out of gas.
Marz singled out his captains Belcher, Travis Grialou and Kieran Quigley for their leadership on the field and credited Madison Strauss, Darra Kelly and goal keeper Raiff Reichart with strong play throughout the 80-minute match.
The Mountain Lions entertained the Pateros Billygoats on Tuesday (April 20) after press time, and face the same Wenatchee C Squad, again at home, on Saturday (April 24), kickoff at 1 p.m.
Track and field
The Mountain Lion tracksters traveled to Bridgeport for the opening meet of the 2021 season on Monday (April 19). Both the boys’ and girls’ teams finished third in overall points for the meet, a solid result given only 15 athletes made the trip, including seven freshmen.
In the boys’ meet, Manson took the team title with Bridgeport placing second. In the girls’ meet, it was Bridgeport first and Manson second.
There were several strong performances of note on the day. Isaiah Stoothoff (5:06) was the winner in the 1,600-meter run for boys, with Aksel Thomson (5:16) placing third. Kyler Mitchell took home second place in the 300M hurdles at 54:10, and cleared the high jump bar at 4 feet, 10 inches, good enough for first place. Marshall Budrow’s throw of 32 feet, 5 inches placed him fourth in the shot put, and his long jump distance of 15 feet, 8 inches took second place. Fischer Edwards placed third in the javelin at 101 feet, 8 inches, with Thomson right behind in fourth with a toss of 101 feet, 6 inches.
For the girls, Clementine Palinska (14.53) ran to a fourth-place finish in the 100M dash and was second in the long jump at 12 feet, 8 inches. In the 200M, freshman Ayla Belsby took fourth place at 30.77. Sandra Hernandez (1:14) placed fourth in the 400M dash and third in the 800M at 3:12. Liv Aspholm cleared the 300M hurdles in 55.13, placing first, also good for ninth on the state list.
Keeley Brooks was the first-place finisher in the 800M at 2:43. Leki Albright (6:07) and Lena Nelson (6:21) ran first and second in the 1,600M. Brooks and Albright both check in at No. 6 on the 2B state list in those two events, respectively, and Nelson also made the10th spot in the 1,600M.
Also cracking the top 10 statewide is the Liberty Bell girls 4x200M relay team, running a 2:06.13 time as the only team on the track.
Coach Katie Leuthauser was especially pleased with the initial meet. “It was a great first meet, and all our athletes should be incredibly proud of their performances,” she said, “especially since they have not done any track and field events in two years!”
Leuthauser pointed out that Aspholm’s 300M hurdles was her first ever competition at that event.
Also notable is the youth movement, according to the first-year coach. “Seven of the 15 athletes that traveled to the meet today were freshman, and they all really held their own at their first high school meet,” she said. “ I look forward to seeing how everyone improves over the next several meets.”
The Mountain Lions host their own meet this Thursday (April 22) at Mountain Lion Stadium. First events start at 4 p.m. as schools from all over North Central Washington will be in attendance. Spectators, while welcome, are not permitted inside the fence at the track, or on the infield at any time. Liberty Bell is also asking that fans be masked and socially distanced at this event.
Liberty Bell fielded just three players in its match against Entiat. Sophomore Ellie Blank played first girls’ singles and won in straight sets. For the boys, sophomore Ezekiel Kirk played first singles and won in straight sets. Sophomore Angel Arellano played second boys’ singles and won in straight sets. Kirk and Arellano won in straight sets in boys’ doubles.
The team is heading to Lake Roosevelt on Wednesday (April 21).
Oroville’s scheduled trip to Liberty Bell for an April 17 double-header was postponed as Liberty Bell was short of eligible players for the early-season match-up. The double-header has been rescheduled for May 6. The two games slated for this week, Tuesday at Waterville and Thursday at Okanogan, have also been postponed with a reschedule yet to be determined.