The Kentwood Conquerors lost their home opener to the Liberty Patriots by a score of 6-3 on March 14.
“You have to look for the good and build on it … It was a game we should have won,” Head Coach Mark Zender said.
Kentwood is now 1-1 on the season after opening the year with a win over South Kitsap on March 11. The last two Conquerors’ wins have been against the Wolves, dating back to last year’s district tournament.
Kentwood knew they had a challenge coming into the contest against Liberty.
“That’s a good team over there,” Zender said. “When you’re in a position to beat a good club like that, it’s a good thing, and we want to build off that.”
“I think everyone played really well, we just got unlucky in some spots,” Kentwood senior Trevor Nyhusmoen said.
The Patriots gave Kentwood’s starting pitcher Tyler Maurer trouble, but he was able to strand six runners on base over his two innings of work, only allowing one run. At the end of the top of the first, Liberty led, 1-0.
Going into the bottom of the first inning down a run, Kentwood would score their only runs of the game.
The first three batters reached base and Kasen Landry drew a bases loaded walk, scoring Jake Sauceda. Jack Coleman was hit by a pitch immediately following Landry’s walk, scoring Jackson Dulay. The final run of the inning scored on a Sean Johnson single, causing A.J. Gaspar to score. The Conquerors were in front of the Patriots, 3-1, at the end of the first inning.
Over the next six innings, the Conks wouldn’t score a run.
“I thought our kids did really well offensively, putting the ball in play and things like that. I told them after the game I thought we had more hard hit balls than they did … We just had a couple places where we could have used a clutch hit or two and that would have given us a couple more,” Zender said.
Following Maurer on the mound, senior Trevor Nyhusmoen silenced the Patriots’ bats for three innings. Over his innings of work, Nyhusmoen allowed no runs, two hits, two walks and a strikeout: “I was just trying to be loose, not get too big on the mound and do my best,” he said.
“He knows how to pitch. He can spin it in the strike zone, he can locate high in the zone. He can be a tough guy to hit,” Zender said.
The challenge came for the Conks in the top of the sixth inning. During that frame, the Patriots sent 10 hitters to the plate and scored five runs, taking the lead and holding it for the remainder of the game. Liberty took the lead, 6-3.
Sauceda threw a clean top of the seventh inning, working around a leadoff walk. Then he retired the next three Patriot batters, ending the Liberty seventh inning.
In the last frame, Kentwood threatened the Patriot lead. Solomon Freeman and Landry led off the inning with two walks, bringing the tying run to the plate. The next two batters flew out to right field. The latter batter, Nyhusmoen, hit a line drive directly to the right fielder, who doubled up Landry to end the game.
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