Spectators dotting the hill in the background at Church Field were treated Tuesday to a two-sided display of baseball fireworks — a Game 1 defined by offensive power and finesse on the mound for visiting Palouse, and the same traits transferred to the home dugout in a Game 2 LC rout.
The Coyotes (4-4) earned an 11-2 decision in the opener. Infielder Oak Held clobbered a pair of home runs — both about 380 feet to left-center field — while starting left-hander Nate Akesson dazzled with offspeed pitches for Palouse.
LC (5-9) responded with its own punch, riding pitcher Dawson Bonfield’s tenacious left arm, and his 350-foot deep shot over the right-field scoreboard, in taking a 9-2 victory in the nightcap.
“It was literally night and day,” LC coach Kevin Maurer said. “Something we’ve struggled with this year, is just showing up. And sometimes it takes a pounding for you to check yourself.”
After Palouse’s Konner Kinkade looped a double to center field to lead off the first inning, Held got solid contact on the first pitch he saw to place the momentum firmly on the Coyotes’ side. Two innings later, he hit another first-pitch shot, which landed in almost the exact spot, just past the 375-foot sign in left.
“I just like to ‘Pete Rose’ it — look for a fastball and sit on a curve,” said Held, an incoming senior at Pullman High School who had hit three combined home runs in his career before. “That was totally new (distance-wise) for me.”
Added interim Coyotes coach Gabby Rodriguez of his third baseman’s heroics: “It not only gave him confidence, but the rest of the guys too. It gave us energy the whole way.”
Meanwhile, Akesson went four innings on 66 pitches, striking out eight against just three hits, one walk and one earned run allowed. Rodriguez said Akesson would’ve gone longer had he not felt some discomfort in his back.
“He was starting with the offspeed, and just throwing strikes,” Rodriguez said. “He was money. Nate was in full command, filling up the zone.”
The Coyotes’ Kelan Becker closed it with three scoreless innings, in which he struck out four LC batters.
“I think it threw them off,” Rodriguez said. “Nate’s a hard-cutting lefty, and Kelan’s a long, lanky righty. So trying to reset as a hitter was probably a little tough.”
Held added a single and a walk to his highlight-packed game. Mitch LaVielle drove in two with two hits — one a double; Tanner Richartz tacked on a double, and six other Palouse players tallied a single apiece.
“They’re a stingy lineups, just tough outs, continuously,” Maurer said.
LC’s Chris Ricard drove in brother D.J. to cut it to 5-2 in the bottom of the fifth, but the Coyotes (4-4) retorted with a five-run sixth, capitalizing on two walks, two plunked batters and an error by LC.
Cole McKenzie of LC pitched well to stop the early bleeding, allowing seven hits and four runs in five innings after relieving starter Xavier Pea, who registered one out.
“We don’t have tons of pitching depth, in terms of actual pitchers,” Maurer noted.
But Maurer had a lot to like from his staff in Game 2. Bonfield, more naturally a first baseman, looked the part as a pitching force, punching out five against four hits and two runs. He walked no one.
“Today it was my fastball, getting ahead of them then throwing an offspeed, a changeup,” Bonfield said. “Throwing strikes and getting outs, that’s my philosophy.”
The Lewiston High School graduate and Umpqua Community College commit sent Cruz Hepburn home in the bottom of the first with a blast to right. Shortly after, Tyson Wallace — a talented outfielder playing for the first time with LC — and Chris Ricard made it 4-0 with a double and line-drive RBI, respectively.
Bonfield kept composure after allowing a solo home run to Payton Kallaher in the fourth inning. LaVielle followed with a double to make it 4-2.
“For (Bonfield) to handle himself like he did after that (homer), and shut them down, it shows a lot about his character.”
Kyle Van Boeyen, an Umpqua pitcher out of Lewiston, tossed two no-hit innings to stamp it closed after an LC eruption in the sixth. The hosts tallied five runs to run away with it — an Austin Kolb double was succeeded by two wild pitches and a two-run double from Elliott Taylor.
Hepburn contributed two hits, including a double, to boost LC, which outhit Palouse 8-5 and had a 5-0 advantage in walks in Game 2.
Coyotes starter Peter Smith struck out four against four hits and four runs permitted in three innings.
This was the first game in the area since local American Legion teams canceled their seasons because of the coronavirus. Palouse’s coach, Kevin Agnew, has resigned, citing concerns with the pandemic. His wife recently had a child.
Yet with country music blaring from the nearby Nez Perce County Fairgrounds on Lewiston Food Truck Night, and a healthy lineup of cars perched above the park on a summery evening, things felt normal — if only for a time.
“We’re really just thankful to be playing each other, that we’re that close,” said Maurer, whose team originally was scheduled to play Kennewick, which has canceled its season.
Palouse 301 015 1—11 12 1
LC 19U 010 010 0—2 7 1
Nate Akesson, Kelan Becker (5) and Payton Kallaher, Eric Akesson (4); Xavier Pea, Cole McKenzie (1), Trayton Skinner (6) and Jack Johnson, Austin Kolb (5). W—Akesson; L—Pea.
Palouse hits — Oakley Held 3 (2 HR), Mitch LaVielle 2 (3B), Tanner Richartz (3B), Kayden Carpenter, Zack Carpenter, Payton Kallaher, Konner Kinkade, Eric Akesson, Kolby Sisk.
LC 19U hits — D.J. Ricard 2, Noah Renzelman 2, Trayton Skinner (2B), Jack Johnson, Chris Ricard.
Palouse 000 200 0—2 4 2
LC 19U 202 005 x—9 7 2
Peter Smith, Sam Kopp (4), Payton Kallaher (6) and Mitch LaVielle. Dawson Bonfield, Kyle Van Boeyen (6) and Austin Kolb.
Palouse hits — Payton Kallaher 2 (HR), Mitch LaVielle 2 (2B), Brady Wells,
LC 19U hits — Cruz Hepburn 2 (2B), Dawson Bonfield (HR), Austin Kolb (2B), Tyson Wallace (2B), Elliott Taylor (2B), Chris Ricard.
Colton Clark may be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @ClarkTrib or by phone at (208) 848-2260.