Veteran Payette fans who braved the cold wild Friday afternoon got to enjoy a familiar face back with the Pirates in a losing effort against Nampa Christian.
The Pirates weren’t able to hold their lead in the bottom of the seventh as they fell to the Trojans 8-7 in eight innings.
According to Payette coach Tracy Bratcher, the Pirates will be taking Friday’s game as a learning experience as they work to replace last season’s big senior class.
“It’s a very young squad,” Bratcher said. “We’ve still got to learn to play in games like this. It’s still new to us. We’re still finding what nine guys in what places are going to fit for us. We’re going to get better every single day.”
Friday was also the first home game back for Payette sophomore Kodee Bennett.
Bennett had his freshman baseball season cut short when he ran for a fly ball from second base during a practice on May 4. When he dove for the ball, he collided with the knee of right-fielder Sabastion Manzo. The impact caused Bennett to lose consciousness.
He was transported via LifeFlight to a Boise hospital, where an X-ray showed that he had fractured his skull, which punctured the membrane of his brain. He required surgery to stop the bleeding and had a metal plate put in his skull.
In a shock to many, Bennett was cleared to play baseball again on May 31 and spent the summer playing with the American Legion Single A Payette Packers.
While the Packers play their home games at Payette’s varsity field, Friday was Bennett’s first varsity game back with the Payette Pirates and he said it was a whole different feeling being back in his Pirates jersey at home.
“It definitely wasn’t the same over the summer,” Bennett said. “It felt pretty amazing. It’s nice to be back out with this team, these coaches and playing on this field.”
Bennett is now fully cleared for all baseball activities. He doesn’t even need to wear a protective carbon fiber insert in his hat like he did over the summer. Bennett was moved to shortstop this spring after spending last season at second base.
Bratcher said he was happy to have his sophomore shortstop back.
“He’s a good kid. And he likes to go out and compete and he does it the right way. A lot of these guys do,” Bratcher said.
With such a young team, Bennett said his biggest goal right now is to be more of a leader for the Pirates.
“I’m just trying to be more of a leader,” Bennett said. “I’m trying to help this team. I’m excited. It’s going to be an exciting season. It’s going to be fun.”
The Pirates (0-2) were able to hold the lead for most of the game Friday afternoon, thanks to a four-run flurry in the bottom of the fourth which included a two-RBI single by Bennett.
The Trojans waited until the top of the seventh inning to make their move, tying the game up at 7-7 with one run coming on an error and one Nampa Christian player stealing home.
An error in the eighth inning gave the Trojans the game-winning run.
Bryce Marshall was the starting pitcher for the Pirates Friday. The senior allowed six hits, four runs, walked two and struck out four in four innings pitched. Ewen Anderson pitched the later four innings, allowing four hits, four runs, walking one and striking out one.