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Pirate baseball dismantles Bobcats and Greyhounds

Sophomore Keygan Wagner has handled the bulk of the pitching for NKN so far this season. – Citizen Photo by Max Kirkendall

In sports, you cannot win if you don’t score, and scoring is something the Neah-Kah-Nie Pirate baseball team has been doing a lot of to start the season.
Max Kirkendall
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This was certainly true when the Pirates welcomed county foe Nestucca to Rockaway Beach on April 3 as the Pirates dominated offensively, scoring 15 runs.
“I’ve been really impressed with the way we’ve been able to put the ball in play early on in the season,” head coach Rob Herder said. “We’ve really been able to get out bats going and it’s given us a lot of confidence that we can get hits off of any pitcher the opposing team throws at us.”
Against the visiting Bobcats, it looked like NHS was going to take full control of the game, scoring three runs in the first inning and going three up, three down in the bottom half of the inning.
But a good start for Nestucca defensively quickly turned sour in the second and NKN loaded up the bases and scored on base hits by senior Josh Longfellow, junior Michael Kelly and senior Josh Elinsky, en route to a five run inning, taking a 5-4 lead going into the third.
The Pirates then took advantage of the starting pitcher’s exit from the mound and piled on the runs for the rest of the game, while the Bobcats were unable to record hits off of sophomore pitcher Keygan Wagner of NKN, who pitched 3.1 innings, striking out four and allowing just one run.
Pitching has been a bit of a question mark this season for the Pirates, Herder said the team is examining all their options on the mound.
“We’re kind of like a box of chocolates,” Herder joked. “You never really know who we’re going to throw on any given day. Fortunately we just got senior AJ Pieper back this past week, who hadn’t been able to pitch because of injuries.”
NKN scored five more runs in the fifth inning and two in the sixth to stretch the lead to 15-5, ending the game at the hands of the 10-run rule.
At the plate, Pieper, who had two hits and two RBI’s, along with teammate Kelly’s pair of hits and RBI’s led the way for the Pirates. Senior Tristan Bennett also batted in three runs on the day.
Bennett was a surprise addition to the team this year, as was Longfellow, who has been rehabbing an ACL injury that has kept him out of all sport activities this school year. The two are players Herder is very pleased to have at his disposal.
“Everyone knows Tristan for his prowess as a football player and wrestler but he hadn’t put on a glove in several years,” Herder said. “But I have to say he is probably the most improved player on the roster this year and continues to make strides each week.
“As for Josh, he’s been out with an ACL injury all year but he was just cleared to play before the season started, which was a pleasant surprise. He’s been one of our most consistent players both at the plate and in the field.”
The Pirates kept the bats rolling when they played the Gaston Greyhounds at home on April 9, scoring 13 runs and winning by 10 in six innings of play.
The two teams battled mother nature throughout the majority of the game, as the rains persisted. It was a close game early on as Gaston scored a run in each of its first three innings and the Pirates scored two in the first on a steal home by Longfellow and a sacrifice fly by Jonathon Lommen.
NKN tacked on another run in the second inning, making it 3-3 after three innings of play. In the fourth, the Pirates blew the game wide open with a seven run explosion on the strength of RBI singles from Longfellow, Elinsky and Wagner. Junior Eric Lambert also did some damage at the plate with a two RBI double to left field, making the game 10-3.
NKN would tack on three more runs before the game’s end, while playing stout defense to end the game at 13-3 after six innings. Once again it was a team effort on the mound as the Pirates threw Pieper, Lommen and Wagner in the game. Wagner handled a bulk of the pitching with three innings of work, recording two strikeouts and no earned runs.
The Pirates will now prepare for a busy couple of days as they travel to Nestucca for a double header Thursday before heading to Gaston on Friday for another double header, weather permitting.
Four games in two days will be a difficult task to overcome, especially against a couple of league rivals, such as the Bobcats.
“We’ve been talking about how much this series means to both teams,” Herder said of the matchup with Nestucca. “We know they have some talented players, but we feel like if we can put the ball in play and continue to play solid defensively than we can take that series.”

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