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Lapwai and Nezperce split a doubleheader in season-opening games at Clearwater Field in Lewiston

Mar. 15—Cats and birds go at each other frequently. And the latest rendition of that fight ended up being a push.

The Lapwai Wildcats and Nezperce Nighthawks opened their baseball seasons against each other in a doubleheader on Thursday at Clearwater Field in Lewiston. The teams split the back-to-back games. Nezperce took the first 9-7 and Lapwai earned the Game 2 win 16-11.

Both teams haven't had much of a chance to get out and practice this spring, but there was enough good on Thursday to see the foundations being built with both squads' young and inexperienced rosters.

Here's how Thursday's Whitepine League doubleheader played out:

Pitching goes through rough patches

Neither team has been able to give their pitchers and catchers extended stretches of live practice due to weather and other practice conditions, and there were moments were the lack of experience was highlighted.

There was a litany of wild pitches and passed balls during the doubleheader that resulted in several extra bases or scores.

The Wildcats (1-1, 1-1) put up 11 combined runs in the third and fourth innings of the nightcap, to the credit of pitching miscues, and the Nighthawks (1-1, 1-1) brought in seven scores in the third and fourth innings of Game 1 in similar fashion.

But there were bright spots to be found in the hurlers' and backstops' performances.

Lapwai's Game 1 pitchers, DaRon Wheeler and Jereese McCormack, combined to strike out 14-of-28 batters faced and Nezperce hurler Matthew Warren threw 53 strikes on 88 pitches and fanned 8-of-18 batters faced.

Not a perfect night by any stretch but a solid night nonetheless for two staffs that are still working to gain more experience.

"Just a lot of rookies — a lot of young guys," Nezperce coach Adam Keith said. "Freshman and sophomores that haven't played baseball before."

The Nighthawks are usually part of a co-op team with Highland for spring sports like baseball and softball. There were no players out of the Craigmont, Idaho, school this year, leading to an unusual circumstance for Nezperce.

Hit like a girl

The small-town based Nighthawks were also unable to put a softball team together this season. This led to several girls — Raylie Warren, Kairys Grant, Audrey Warren, Morgan Kirkland and Hailee Cobb — joining the baseball team.

Four of the girls — Raylie Warren, Audrey Warren, Kirkland and Grant — combined for four hits, two RBI and five runs across the two games. Raylie Warren accounted for two of those hits and both RBI with a two-score knock in Game 1.

"It was tricky because we didn't know if we'd have a team because Highland doesn't have any players — it's only us," Keith said. "So the girls not having a softball team really helped us out. And they were gung-ho wanting to play.

"They came in with a really positive attitude and then it was just a matter of getting them acclimated: bases being farther apart and everything that's different about (baseball) compared to softball. ... Everybody likes that they're working hard. A lot of good attitudes."

Lapwai makes final push

The Wildcats were down 9-4 going into the fifth inning of the matinee.

Lapwai scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth to cut Nezperce's advantage down to 9-7. The two game-tying runs ended up being left on base. Due to a two-hour time limit for first games in doubleheaders, the game ended after the fifth and the Nighthawks were able to stave off the Wildcats' comeback attempt.

Lapwai got its get-back in the nightcap.

Nezperce led 4-2 through two innings before the Wildcats' 11-run surge in the third and fourth frames. The Nighthawks tallied four runs in the bottom of the fourth and trailed the Wildcats 13-11 going into the fifth inning.

Lapwai put up three more runs in the top of the fifth to build a comfortable seven-run lead going into the bottom half of the frame. Nezperce tallied two more runs but couldn't complete its own ill-fated comeback attempt.

"A lot of these kids here, they haven't played (baseball) in a long time," Lapwai coach Bert Williamson said. "It's pretty tough with only nine players (on the team). But they battled. And it's a good win for them. Good confidence builder. (Nezperce) is a tough team."

Players of the game

McCormack tallied seven total RBI and three total hits across the doubleheader for the Wildcats.

Carter Williams had four total hits, two RBI, crossed home plate four times and earned a save in Game 1 for the Nighthawks.

GAME 1

Nezperce 025 20—9 5 0

Lapwai 103 03—7 3 1

Matthew Warren, Carter Williams (5), Jadin Williams (5), Carter Williams (5) and Nic Kirkland; DaRon Wheeler, Jereese McCormack (3) and Arlondo Lopez. W—Warren; L—McCormack; S—C. Williams.

Nezperce hits — C. Williams 2 (2 2B), Raylie Warren 2 (2B), Matthew Warren.

Lapwai hits — Garret Baumbaugh, McCormack, Wheeler.

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GAME 2

Lapwai 116 53—16 11 2

Nezperce 311 42—11 6 2

Quinton Kipp, Garret Baumbaugh (1), Jonathan VanWorkman (4) and Arlondo Lopez, Jereese McCormack (5); Carter Williams, Jadin Williams (3), Nic Kirkland (4) and Nick Kirkland, Matthew Warren (4).

Lapwai hits — VanWorkman 3 (2B), Jared Marek 3, McCormack 2 (2B), Baumbaugh, Lopez, Kipp.

Nezperce hits — Jadin Williams 2 (2B, 3B), Carter Williams 2, Grant Ingram (2B), Matthew Warren.

Kowatsch can be contacted at 208-848-2268, tkowatsch@lmtribune.com or on Twitter @Teren_Kowatsch.