Hilander Dental made the most of their first “home games” of the summer here in Astoria on Sunday as they dispatched Rural Baseball Inc. with scores of 12-0 and 12-4.
Like nearly all teams Lower Columbia Baseball Club has had their normal operations upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides a delayed start to their season and a new Senior Babe Ruth affiliation, the traditional American Legion club out of Longview has suffered a loss of access to the fields they typically call home, like R.A. Long and Mark Morris.
So when an offer came through to play at Astoria High School the local boys of summer jumped at the chance.
There were some strings attached, though. Most notably, players and coaches had to wear masks while in the dugout and fans were not allowed to fill the stands. Instead, innovative baseball enthusiasts parked their cars in a line on the elevated road that outlines half of the field and created a drive-in baseball experience on Father’s Day.
“Having to wear masks and do all those different things is not our first choice but if that’s what we have to do to play baseball then we are more than willing to do it,” Joe Bair, LCBC skipper, said.
And play ball they did.
In the day’s first game Luke Brown and Jake Morrow both stroked two-run doubles while Austin Little went 2-for-3 at the plate. Pitcher Dylan Rush earned the win with a five-inning, one-hit shutout that took just 56 pitches to complete.
“Dylan Rush has been our ace the last two summers and we just play with a lot of confidence when he’s throwing,” Bair said. “He’s a fun guy to play defense behind because you know you’re going to be involved and he has great tempo.”
In the second game Dawon Evenson, Kevin Barnett, and Kaleb Edwards combined to throw a wonky no-hitter that included seven walks and three errors by the defense. Cade Warren led Hilander Dental with two hits and three runs batted in. Little and Chance Cothren both added a pair of hits for LCBC including a set of two-run doubles.
“I think our early most improved player would be Chance Cothren. He played a solid outfield and had a couple hits yesterday,” Bair noted. “He’s fighting for time in the outfield and he’s making it hard to keep him out of there.”
For the Rural Baseball boys the highlights were few and far between, but they did exist. Namely, Jesse Towns led the defense with a pair of tumbling/diving catches in left field and had the Dirtbags’ only hit in the first game. Kyuss Mano also flashed a strong arm and fleet feet in the outfield while Mekhi Morlin showed promise on the mound during the first three and a half innings of his outing in game one before his defense let him down.
Despite the ban on bleacher seating the Father’s Day games saw an impressive turnout that indicated just how starved
the public is for baseball in particular, and sports in general.
“I don’t know how many cars were parked around the periphery but it was a packed house,” Bair said. “We practiced there the last three Saturdays and we’ve had community members coming out just to watch practice. It’s been a really blessing to be able to go to Astoria. The city has been very welcoming.”
Hilander Dental will host the Vancouver Mavericks in Astoria on Tuesday at 5 p.m.
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