Libby falls in Legion baseball home opener
Paul Sievers/The Western News Colton Cannon shutdown Kootenai Valley for most of the game. He finished with six strikeouts in eight innings.
Heading into the season with a lot of new faces, Libby American Legion baseball coach Kelly Morford knew pitching would need to develop for the Loggers to reach the same heights as a year ago.
In the home opener on Friday night at Lee Gehring Field, Morford saw great pitching with a quality start from Colton Cannon. But Libby struggled at the plate and couldn’t give Cannon much run support in a 7-1 loss to the Kootenai Valley Rangers out of Eureka.
“Colt did a good job of keeping us in the game,” Morford said. “It’s important for him to give us quality innings like that.”
Kootenai Valley threw three pitchers at the Loggers and the home team couldn’t figure any of them out. Kade Davis, Alex Lesowski and Ryan Holder combined to limit Libby to six hits while striking out 12 and the Loggers stranded 12 runners on base – at least one in eight of the nine innings.
“I don’t think it was so much their pitching shutting us down but our approach at the plate,” Morford said.
Libby and Eureka were embattled in a pitcher’s duel through the first six innings. The Rangers scored in the top of the first when Chad Price walked and made his way around the bases to score on a sacrifice fly by Bryton Guckenberg.
Cannon didn’t allow a hit until the third when No. 9 hitter Colin Gillard singled up the middle. Through six innings, Kootenai Valley could manage only two hits off of the Libby hurler.
In the seventh, Libby’s fortunes began to run out. Kaleb Curtiss hit a double to right-center and later scored. Price, Eureka’s leadoff speedster, reached on a walk and tried to steal home but Libby catcher Clay Smith applied the tag in time for the out.
The Rangers then broke open the game with five runs in the top of the eighth and ninth innings. Kootenai Valley’s small ball of four singles and a sac bunt led to three in the eighth. A bases-loaded hit batsman and an RBI single by Tyler Brown led to the other two in the ninth.
Eric Stevenson, Libby’s multi-talented addition from Noxon, pitched the final inning.
The Loggers scored their lone run in the bottom of the ninth. Micah Germany singled and later scored on an infield single by Stevenson.
Libby’s six hits were all by different players. Cannon had a double over the leftfielder’s head in the eighth inning. Cannon allowed seven hits and five walks while fanning six over eight innings of work.
Defensively, Libby committed no errors and Dustin Morningstar pulled off an unassisted double play in the third inning when he caught a line drive and then made a diving tag on Eureka’s Gillard. Also in the third, Eric Grotjohn made an exceptional stop on a hard-hit grounder and threw to first to end the inning.
Libby and Glacier AA did not play on Saturday because of a scheduling error by the opponent.
The Loggers were scheduled to play on Tuesday at home against Glacier AA. The team’s next game is set for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. against Kalispell AA.