The skies opened up last week (for the most part) and the Astoria baseball team was finally able to play its first home game (sort of) of the 2003 season.

Because of poor field conditions at Aiken Field, the Fishermen and the Rainier Columbians moved up the hill and played their Cowapa League opener at Astoria Middle School Friday afternoon. The Columbians used back-to-back doubles in a third-inning rally to score a 3-1 win.

The slick field conditions never came into play, as Rainier pitcher Broc Coffman and Astoria's Ryan Kelly combined for 22 strikeouts.

"I can't believe there's two better pitchers in the league than these two," Astoria coach Ralph Steinback told Rainier's Rob Cameron after the game.

"I'm with you," Cameron responded. "That was outstanding."

Coffman got the win, allowing just two hits and three walks, with 11 strikeouts.

Kelly struck out 11 as well, but allowed six hits and four walks, the two doubles in the third inning being the difference.

"Ryan's tough," Cameron said. "When he's on the hill, these guys are going to be tough to beat."

The Astoria Middle School field - part launching pad (left field) and part desolate wasteland (center and right field) - played its part.

Astoria's Garrett Long gave the Fishermen their lone run with a fourth-inning, solo homer into the forest just beyond left field; while a fly to deep center field from Kyle Bryan in the seventh was caught on the run by Rainier's Jack Whipple.

"That would have been out of the park, easy (at Aiken Field)," Steinback said. "We started to hit the ball toward the latter part of the game, and I think Broc started to get a little tired. But he's a competitor, and he competed."

Kelly had four strikeouts through two innings, and struck out the first batter of the third inning before giving up an infield single to Logan Andrews.

Kelly struck out the next batter, but Coffman followed with a double to left-center field, scoring Andrews with the game's first run. Moments later, Whipple doubled to left, scoring Coffman.

The Columbians tacked on another run in the fourth, as Rafael Ray and Kyle Rask drew back-to-back walks, and No. 9 batter Ben Greer singled down the left field line with two outs to score Ray.

Coffman struck out the first two batters in the bottom of the fourth, before Long delivered his solo shot to left field.

The Fishermen appeared ready to tie it up in the fifth inning, as Anthony Hill drew a leadoff walk, and Kyle Bryan reached on an error. Hill took third on the play, and Bryan later stole second to put runners at second and third with no outs.

But Coffman came back and struck out the next three batters to end the inning.

"The thing we needed to do was put the ball in play when we were at second and third and no outs, but we didn't get it done," Steinback said.

Both pitchers finished strong, with Kelly striking out two in the sixth inning, then received help in the form of a 4-6-3 double play to end the seventh.

"As far I'm concerned, those were the two best pitchers in the Cowapa League," Steinback said. "There's none better than those two.

"Ryan's pitched 21 innings so far and given up five total earned runs," he said. "Today, Rainier gets the two doubles in a row in the third inning, and a single to their No. 9 batter in the fourth, and that was it."

Both coaches also agreed - you can look for more of the same throughout the season in the Cowapa League.

"Seaside, Astoria and Rainier are probably all right there, and any one of those teams could win," Cameron said. "We played good defense for Broc today. That's only the second time he's pitched. We don't have a high-powered offense, and we have decent pitching. I think a 3-1 score is what the Cowapa League expects."

Steinback said, "I think it's going to be very competitive. The league is going to be strong. Seaside's going to be a strong ball club - they're experienced; and Tillamook's going to compete.

"I see it as a horse race," he said. "I don't think anyone has a clear-cut lead right to the top. Everybody's going to have to compete and earn wins. Hopefully that was instilled a little bit in our kids after the game. We're going to be ready, come next Tuesday."

Astoria plays at Tillamook Tuesday, while Rainier takes on Scappoose.

Seaside 9, Tillamook 5SEASIDE - Seaside won its Cowapa League opener - and first home game of the season - by defeating Tillamook 9-5 at Broadway Field Friday afternoon.

No details were reported. The Gulls play at Banks Tuesday.

Knappa 16, Neah-Kah-Nie 6KNAPPA - Neah-Kah-Nie's hopes for an upset Friday afternoon at Knappa quickly disappeared in the fifth and sixth innings, as 11 runs from the Loggers put Knappa over the top, on its way to a 16-6 win over the Pirates.

Knappa trailed 6-5 after four innings, but the Loggers scored six runs in the fifth and added five in the sixth to end the game.

Kevin Maki went 3-for-3 with four runs batted in, with a triple and a home run at the plate. He also scored three runs.

Brent Brockey added a home run, Toivo Fransen went 2-for-3 and scored twice, and Austin Hunsinger scored three runs.

Knappa's Derek Jacobson worked the sixth and most of the fifth inning to pick up the victory, improving his record to 4-0 on the season.

"Kevin Maki had an awesome day," said Knappa coach Jeff Miller. "And Dana Barendse did a solid job behind the plate. He's caught every inning for us this year, and he's really coming along. He's turned into a real leader for us."

The Loggers collected 12 hits off three Neah-Kah-Nie pitchers, while the Pirates managed just four hits off Chris Ware, Nick Bryan, Eric Holt and Jacobson.

Knappa plays at Clatskanie Tuesday.

Warrenton 9, Vernonia 7VERNONIA - The Warrenton baseball team is back on the winning track, as the Warriors bounced back from a Thursday loss to Knappa with a win at Vernonia Friday.

Warrenton pitcher David Stevens ran his record to 4-0 on the season, and the fourth-ranked Warriors held off a late rally for a 9-7 win.

Zach Gantenbein led Warrenton's offensive attack by going 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBI's. Zach LaRue went 2-for-4, while he and Nick Miller drove in two runs each.

The Loggers scored two runs in the bottom of the first, but the Warriors came back with two in the third and three in the fourth to take a 5-2 lead.

Vernonia tied the score with three runs in the bottom of the fourth, but the Warriors pulled away for good with four runs in the sixth.

Stevens settled down after a rough start, striking out six with three walks and allowing eight hits.

Nate McBride came on in relief in the bottom of the seventh, striking out the final two batters with the bases loaded.

The Warriors improve to 5-1 overall, 3-1 in league. Warrenton plays a doubleheader at Portland Lutheran Thursday.

Castle Rock sweeps IlwacoLONG BEACH, Wash. - Castle Rock pounded out 14 hits in the opener, then limited Ilwaco to just one hit in Game 2, as the Rockets swept past the Fishermen 14-9 and 8-1 in a Trico League baseball doubleheader Friday.

The Rockets led 4-3 after four innings of Game 1, then erupted for eight runs in the fifth to pull away.

Ilwaco's Burt Walters went 3-for-4 at the plate, while Castle Rock's Nathan Roubicek picked up the win on the mound.

Castle Rock scored four runs in the first inning of Game 2, as the Rockets' Brandon Jacobi hit the first pitch of the game over the left field fence.

Rockets' pitcher Kyle Foster tossed a complete game, allowing just a first-inning single by Ilwaco's Sam Eilers.

Ilwaco's scheduled game with Forks today has been canceled.

Softball

Knappa 7, Neah-Kah-Nie 1KNAPPA - Two hits was all the Knappa softball team could come up with Friday afternoon against Neah-Kah-Nie, but that was more than enough for the Loggers, who posted a 7-1 Northwest League win over the Pirates.

Nadra Evans and Jenni Smith each had a base hit for Knappa, and each drove in a pair of runs, as the Loggers improve to 2-3 overall, 2-2 in league play.

The Loggers play Tuesday at Clatskanie.

Vernonia 11, Warrenton 3VERNONIA - The Warrenton Warriors hit a bump in the road Friday afternoon at Vernonia, as the Loggers ended any hopes of a perfect season for the Warriors, defeating Warrenton 11-3 in a Northwest League softball contest.

It was the first loss of the season for the Warriors, who fall to 7-1 overall, 3-1 in league.

Quickly becoming one of the best-hitting teams in the NWL, the Loggers had 18 hits off Warrenton pitcher Stacey Moore, including three triples and a double.

Vernonia scored three runs in the bottom of the second before the Warriors tied it with three runs in the top of the third.

But the Loggers gradually pulled away, scoring three runs each in the fourth and fifth innings.

Warrenton had two hits apiece from Grace Smith, Tasha Jones and Ashley Johnson. Smith had a triple and two RBI's, while Jones had three steals.

Warrenton is scheduled to host a single game with Naselle Wednesday.

Castle Rock 11, Ilwaco 0CASTLE ROCK, Wash. - Castle Rock defeated Ilwaco 11-0 in a five-inning Trico League softball contest Friday.

Clatskanie, Rainier splitRAINIER - The Clatskanie and Rainier softball teams split a nonleague doubleheader Saturday at Rainier.

The Columbians took Game 1, 6-5, before the Tigers came back in the second game for a 5-3 victory.

Clatskanie's Kayla Emura went 2-for-4 with two RBI's in the opener, and teammate Tracy Somes was 3-for-3 and picked up the win on the mound in Game 2.

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