By Brad Mosher
Neah-Kah-Nie started off the Northwest League season Tuesday with the defending state champions visiting Rockaway Beach.
The Knappa Loggers are the top-ranked team in the state, according to the OSAA.
Knappa got 13 hits off Pirate starter Bryce Bridge but barely outscored the hosts for a 3-1 win.
Logger sophomore starter Dale Takalo gave up just four hits to the Pirates in four innings. His replacement, Michal Goodman, pitched three innings. The two Loggers combined for 14 strikeouts.
The victory was Knappa’s 47th consecutive league win.
Pirates finished the game with five errors, but they were also able to get two straight outs late in the game with throws to the catcher at home
The Loggers scored two runs in the first inning, while the Pirates answered with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning.
It was Noah Kinney of Knappa hitting a two-run single that proved to be the winning score for the Loggers.
Lead-off batter Colby Hixson scored the only Pirate run, with Bridge picking up the RBI.
Knappa improved to 3-0 overall with the victory and leads the league with Vernonia after one game. The Loggers are the top-ranked team in the state, according to the OSAA.
For Neah-Kah-Nie coach Rob Herder, the close game showed just how far the team has come.
Herder took over a team in 2015 that was winless the year before.
He admitted the team made some mistakes. “But we came ready to play.
“We took our lumps in the preseason to prepare us for teams like Knappa.
“They (Knappa) are the first team we have played (this season) that is in our classification. At least the preseason helped us to prepare for our league,” the coach said.
The painful preseason had a silver lining, the coach said. “We now understand what very good, high-level baseball looks like. Even though it is a very high bar, it gives us something to reach for,” he added.
Bridge may have had a tough outing Tuesday, but he definitely is the team’s top guy, according to Herder. “He is a sophomore, but he still is our number one pitcher. He is not the only guy that we can compete with.”
The Pirates have players who are developing their baseball skills, the coach added. “We have a number of kids who are really putting in the time to get better. You are starting to see it on the field.
“It wasn’t even a year and a half two years ago that they couldn’t record a win.
“Now, we are competing with schools like Knappa.”
Herder said that although coaches can never be satisfied, but he really likes what he is seeing from the players. “I really like the way we are competing. That is all any coach can ask for.”
The team knows they have shortcomings, but they have a motto –”Just one more game,” said Herder.
“Whether it is a league playoff or a state playoff, we just want one more game,” he said. “If we can get to that secondary season, I think if a team can peak at the right time, anything can happen.”