The Liberty Bell High School softball team returned to the field, after a delayed start, on April 29. With only 12 players on the roster, several of them eighth-graders and freshmen, the young and inexperienced crew’s challenge immediately out of the gate lay in facing perennial league champion Brewster.
The Bears took full advantage of their two-week head start in a four-inning, mercy rule win, 28-5.
Brewster baserunners crossed the plate a dozen times in the top of the first inning and then cruised from there, scoring three runs in the second and third innings, and tallying 10 more in their fourth and final at bat.
Liberty Bell did show some offensive punch in the second inning, tallying five runs as Brewster’s pitcher showed some lack of control, hitting three batters and walking a couple more. The home team took advantage of several wild pitches to bring home runners from third base.
Of the Brewster game, “It was a learning experience for us,” said head coach Chad Surface. “That first inning was a little rough, as was the fourth,” he continued, “but we’re young and they’re learning.”
Saturday (May 1) saw the always-tough Tonasket Tigers at Liberty Bell for a double-header. Youth, inexperience and lack of on-the-field practice time exacted a toll, as the Tigers swept both games, 19-1 and 20-4. Liberty Bell’s record fell to 0-3 after starting off with the top two teams in the league.
The Mountain Lions will be looking for their first win of the year Friday (May 7) when the Oroville Hornets buzz into the valley.
There is a certain regal flavor to this year’s version of Mountain Lion softball. Pitcher Payten Lawrence, left fielder Hannah Binning and center fielder Madi Surface are representing Winthrop as this year’s ’49ers Days junior royalty. With that annual community celebration back in full swing this year, the doubleheader with Oroville has been switched from the originally scheduled Saturday to Friday, first pitch at 3 p.m., at the Mountain Lion softball field.
Baseball drops to 4-4 on season
After a 10-5 win at Almira-Coulee-Hartline on Tuesday (April 27), Tonasket paid a visit to Mountain Lion Field on Saturday. The Tigers were up to the task, sweeping both games of the midday double-header, 5-3 and 7-3. Tonasket ran their season record to 5-2 while Liberty Bell fell to 4-4.
Fielding errors played a key role in the two losses: the home team had four miscues in each game, and seven of the eight errors occurring in the sixth and seventh innings each game. Indeed, in the first game the Mountain Lions went to the sixth frame up by a score of 3-1 on the strength of solid pitching by junior David Kominak, scattering six hits over the seven innings, giving up only one earned run and allowing no hits in the second through fifth innings before the ill-fated final two innings.
In the nightcap, the Tigers jumped off to a 4-0 lead after the second inning and never looked back. Liberty Bell had almost enough offense to counter the defensive issues, but left a total of 10 runners stranded on base, three each in the second and seventh innings.
That final frame looked like Liberty Bell was coming to life as Eli Neitlich led off with a two-base hit, Noah Holston was hit by a pitch and two walks drawn by Quinn Wengerd and Damon Alumbaugh allowed Neitlich to cross the plate with the Lions’ third run. The bases were loaded with nobody out. Tonasket pitching then struck out the final three batters and the Tigers left the valley with the sweep intact.
Coach David Aspholm was philosophical regarding the two losses and how the lack of hitting and fielding foibles affected the outcome. “Both those numbers are too high and in this game usually add up to a loss. We just failed to make enough things happen defensively or offensively,” he said.
Aspholm singled out Kominak’s pitching and Neitlich’s hitting as bright spots. “David Kominak pitched well, throwing just 72 pitches in a complete game. Eli Neitlich hit the ball well in the nightcap, reaching on a double and a single.” Quinn Wengerd sent one fly ball deep to dead center field in a crossing wind that fell into a Tonasket glove just a few feet from the fence.
“He is seeing the ball well right now and it is really popping off his bat,” said the coach of his senior first baseman.
The Mountain Lions headed to Pateros for single-game action late Tuesday (May 4), then entertain the Omak Pioneers in a ’49ers Days double-header at home this coming Saturday, first pitch is at 11 a.m.
Soccer drops Warden, Okanogan matches
It was a tough week for the young Liberty Bell boys’ soccer program. A long Thursday-afternoon-into-night trip to Warden for a match with the Cougars of the 2B Eastern Washington Athletic Association found the outmanned Lions on the short end of a 12-1 score.
Raiff Reichert, Liberty Bell’s eighth-grade goalkeeper, played well, according to Coach Dave Marz.
“He put in a great performance in the first half, making 14 saves,” the coach said. Warden did score four goals in that first half in what amounted to an 18-shots-on-goal attack, and the teams headed for the break with the Cougars up 4-0. Marz noted that Reichert left the match late in the first half with an undisclosed injury and did not return to the net the rest of the evening. Warden responded by ramping up the attack in the second half.
In the second half, the Mountain Lions pushed the ball into the offensive end more assertively, getting off a half-dozen shots. The lone tally came in the 58th minute, with Brody Barber finding Brayden Schmekel in a defensive gap. Schmekel fired a shot to the the back of the net, putting the Mountain Lions on the scoreboard.
Liberty Bell hosted Okanogan on Saturday with a similar result as the older and deeper Bulldogs defeated Liberty Bell, 8-2. With three more injuries thinning the Mountain Lions’ ranks, Liberty Bell had a limited reserve pool. There was good news in the return of Reichert in goal.
The Mountain Lions were in the match at half, trailing 5-2, Wyatt Belcher’s goal off a penalty kick late in the half providing a little momentum heading into the break. But the Bulldogs clamped down on the Liberty Bell attack, picking up three more tallies and running the score out to the final 8-2 margin.
“Our defense had some small errors in the second half that resulted in Okanogan goals,” the Lions’ coached offered. “While the offense did not score in the second half, the team focused on communicating and I was pleased with the team soccer the offense demonstrated.”
Next up for Liberty Bell was a trip to Brewster on Tuesday (May 4) and a Thursday (May 6) date with the Billygoats at Pateros.
Track teams prep for league meet
Seasonal improvement continues to mark the Mountain Lion track and field program as they made their annual spring trek to Oroville.
Typically, the Oroville meet serves as a qualifier for the District meet and for State. Instead, it was called NC Washington Meet No. 3, and served as the de facto prelude event to the NC Washington B League meet at Manson this Thursday (May 6).
On the girls’ side, the middle distance runners continued to shine with senior Keeley Brooks (2:37) once again winning the 800-meter run, freshman Leki Albright placing second just 4 seconds behind Brooks, and senior Lena Nelson (2:50) in fourth. Albright took the 1,600M title in 5:57, and Nelson was second in the five-runner field at 6:16.
In the 200M run, freshman Lillian Overbeck placed second at 31.32 seconds (a personal record), fellow frosh Sandra Hernandez placed fourth and sophomore Nina Kominak was right behind Hernandez in fifth. Overbeck and freshman Ayla Belsby ran third and fourth in the 100M dash.
The 4x100M relay team of Overbeck, Kominak, Clementine Palinska and Joslyn Rispone took second place in 59.23 seconds, behind winner Tonasket. The Mountain Lions’ 4x400M relay team (Brooks, Nelson, Albright and Hernandez) followed their win at Liberty Bell last week with a 6-second win over Omak, timed in at 4:43.47.
Notable in the field events was freshman Penny Palinska’s third-place finish in the high jump, clearing the bar at 4 feet, 4 inches.
Leading the boys’ effort, Isaiah Stoothoff again took home first in the high jump, clearing the bar at 5 feet, 6 inches. Freshman Kyler Mitchell place second at 5 feet, 4 inches. Marshall Budrow set a personal record in the shot put with a throw of 34 feet, 6 inches on his way to a second-place finish.
Freshman Aksel Thomson continued to show he is NC Washington’s top freshman distance runner, placing second and setting a personal record in the 3,200M run at 11:43. In the 800M, freshman Wil Halpin set a personal record with a fifth-place finish at 2:25, while Mitchell’s 1:01 in the 400M was good for second place. Budrow started off the meet with a fourth-place in the 400M.
The League Championship meet is slated for Thursday (May 6) at Manson High School, followed by the North Central Washington sub-regional meet at Wenatchee High School on May 14 and the NCW Championships the following day at Eastmont High School in East Wenatchee.
Tennis in full swing
Also on the road last week, Liberty Bell tennis traveled over the Loup to Okanogan on Wednesday, then stayed home to face Oroville late Monday. Both matches were loaded with positives, according to Assistant Coach Keri Miles.
Sophomore Ezekiel Kirk continues to improve, taking two of three sets in comeback fashion to win his match at Okanogan. Angel Arrellano picked up a 6-2, 6-1 victory in the Oroville match.
Newcomers freshman Gannet Fisher and eighth-grader Matthew Bosco teamed up to engage a veteran crew from Oroville, and though losing the match, Miles said they “played well together with some good rallies against a more experienced Oroville doubles team.”
In an exhibition match that served notice of things yet to come, sophomore Nathan Buck teamed up with seventh-grader Gavin Blank for a non-counting win, as Blank is not eligible for varsity play until eighth grade. It was the first match for both players this season.
Ellie Blank, a sophomore, continues to show the hope of the future on this very young team, leading the girls. Blank teamed up with first-year player, freshmen Amelia Evans, to push a Bulldog tandem to three sets before falling. “It was the first time the girls played together,” said Miles. Evans and Blank went on to singles victories against the Hornets on Monday.
The Mountain Lions host Manson at Liberty Bell on Wednesday at 4 pm., then have six more matches over the next two weeks to close out this abbreviated season. The next home matches are on May 10 and May 11, versus Tonasket and Pateros, respectively. Schedules have been changing with regularity: check the school district’s Methow.org web page for the activities week at a glance under “Athletics” for updated information.