Friday afternoon’s tilt between the Kennewick and Kamiakin baseball teams may have been both teams’ opener to Mid-Columbia Conference play, but the Lions still were thinking of last year’s season-ender.
Jarrod Molnaa and Clayten Ayres each went the distance on the mound, and Kennewick had more than enough offense to sweep the Braves 17-2 and 3-0 at LaPierre Field.
“It’s always fun to get after these guys,” said Molnaa, whose six-inning six-hitter was big even with the Lions’ nine-run turn in the sixth to secure the mercy-rule victory. “Especially after last year and what happened at the end of the season.”
What happened was Kamia-kin’s 2-0 win over Kennewick in the state quarterfinals as the Braves went on to win the Class 3A state title.
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That stinging defeat still was on the minds of the Kennewick players, who were only too happy to take advantage of every free base and extra out (five errors, seven walks and a hit batter in the first game alone).
“For the first couple innings it was (close),” Molnaa said. “Then we started capitalizing on their mistakes. But coming in, I did expect it to be a battle.”
It was shaping up to be a fight when Kennewick (6-2) stuck three runs on the board in the top of the third — Vince Gonzalez’s two-out double started the rally that was capped with Dylan Wilbert’s two-run two-bagger — only to see the Braves answer back with a two-out rally of their own in the bottom of the frame.
Johnny Jansen and Trystan Drury hit back-to-back singles in front of designated hitter Hayden Burris, who put a charge into a ball into right-center for a two-run double.
But that was the last offense of the day for the Braves (3-5), who have lost five straight after winning their first three.
“We’re lacking offense,” Jansen said. “Our pitchers have done great, our defense is solid. We just need to string together a few hits.”
Kennewick had no trouble on that end, scoring three more runs in the fourth, two in the fifth and then nine in the sixth as the Braves let the game completely get away.
Gonzalez and Wilbert each had three hits and two doubles. Wilbert also drove in four runs, and Steven Sordahl had three RBIs. Kennewick smacked five doubles in the game and seven on the day, victimizing game-one starter David Marshall as much has his defense did.
“When he got the ball up in the zone, they made him pay,” said Kamiakin coach Ryan Carter. “When they hit the ball, they squared it up. The got on base, that’s the deal.”
The hits continued in game two, though Drury kept the damage to a minimum starting on the mound for Kamiakin. JJ Hancock doubled and scored in the first for Kennewick, and a sacrifice fly by Ayers and another double from Wilbert plated two more runs in the third.
That was all the support Ayres needed for his two-hit shutout. He struck out four and walked one, masterfully mixing speeds and hitting all his spots.
“I knew I had to put out a good effort,” Ayers said. “This whole week I set myself throwing in the bullpen, getting ready for this atmosphere.”
Larry Dewitt went 3-for-3 for Kennewick hitting in the seven hole. Both he and Wilbert, who finished 4-for-7 with three doubles and five RBIs, are first-year varsity regulars, but Ayers said it is no surprise they are stepping up.
“We expect whoever we put out there to give their best effort,” he said.
The second game certainly was the best effort defensively for Kamiakin. After making those five errors int the first game, the Braves threw out a trio of base runners. Catcher Ty Earley nailed two would be thieves as second, and shortstop Logan Jackson made a terrific relay on Wilbert’s double to snuff another run at home.
“We’re not used to stuff like this,” Jansen said of the defensive miscues. “We just have to get experienced and build the confidence up. It’s a good group.”
Kennewick 003 329 -- 17 13 2Kamiakin 002 000 -- 2 6 5Jarrod Molnaa and Dylan Wilbert; David Marshall, Cody Pedroza (5), Justin Larsen (6) and Ty Earley. Highlights—Steven Sordahl (Ken) 3 RBI; Vince Gonzalez (Ken) 3x4, 2 2B, 3R, 2 RBI; JJ Hancock (Ken) 2x4, RBI, R; Clayten Ayres (Ken) 2x4, 2 RBI, 3R; Wilbert (Ken) 3x4, 2 2B, 2R, 4 RBI; Molnaa (Ken) 6IP-6H-2ER-3BB-5K; Johnny Jansen (Kam) 2x3; Hayden Burris (Kam) 2x3, 2B, 2 RBI.
Kennewick 102 000 0 -- 3 7 0Kamiakin 000 000 0 -- 0 2 1Ayres and Hancock; Trystan Drury and Earley. Highlights—Hancock (Ken) 2B, SB; Wilbert (Ken) RBI 2B; Larry Dewitt (Ken) 3x3; Drury (Kam) 7IP-7H-3R-4BB-1K.