A GRIP ON SPORTS
It's been a long time since a Spokane college baseball team has been to these heights. Fifty-two years. That's the last time a team from the Lilac City has headed off to a college world series. But it will happen next week. Read on.
• The Whitworth Pirates had never appeared in the NCAA Division III baseball championships before this season. But they do have a national championship history. In 1960, the Pirates won the NAIA title in Sioux City, Iowa. The Pirates, led by future St. Louis Cardinal World Series winning pitcher Ray Washburn, defeated Georgia Southern in the final game for their lone baseball national championship. But that's ancient history to these young Bucs, whose 9-2 win over Trinity (Texas) Saturday in the Linfield Regional sent them to Appleton, Wisc., and the Division III World Series.
How unexpected is the Pirates' regional title? Well, check out the latest D3Baseball.com national rankings from before the postseason. Regional participants Concordia (Texas) and Trinity were both ranked. Host Linfield, which wasn't invited, received votes. And Whitworth, which won the Northwest Conference title? Not even a mention. Not a vote, not a peep. But they'll be opening the championships Friday evening against the winner of the Marietta regional, if form holds, top-ranked Marietta. A challenge, sure. But the Pirates have been meeting challenges all season. Kevin Valerio, who hit .438 with seven RBI in the regional, was named MVP, but Whitworth has a deep lineup and pitching staff made up of mainly underclassmen from the Inland Northwest.
• Washington State: Kind of expected a Christian Caple blog post this morning after he dominated the S-R sports section with a couple stories. First, Christian caught up with former football coach Paul Wulff and talked with him concerning his new job with the San Francisco 49ers. Then Saturday afternoon, Christian was at Bailey-Brayton to watch freshman P.J. Jones hit a walk-off grand slam as the Cougars defeated Oregon State 9-5.
• Idaho: Missed this column earlier in the week, but still wanted to pass along this ode to the soon-to-be gone WAC.
• Preps: I was kidding about Christian dominating the S-R sports page this morning. No, the prep athletes took over page one and much of the inside pages. … We'll start with the track coverage, with Greg Lee in the Tri-Cities to cover the 4A and 3A meets. There were also track meets with the smaller Washington schools and the Idaho state title meets. … On the softball field, Coeur d'Alene won the Idaho big school title with an upset of district rival Lake City in the championship. There were also playoffs in all levels of play in Washington, from CV making the 4A state tournament to Shadle Park and U-Hi doing the same in the 3A. … Baseball playoffs continued in Washington and the state tournament wound down in Idaho. … What else? The tennis regionals and soccer state tournament. … Finally, we have our weekly achievements column.
• Mariners: Talk about flying under the radar. My pick for the American League Cy Young, Jason Vargas, threw another outstanding game yesterday in a tough place to pitch, Coors Field. And the Mariners breezed to a 10-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies. So what of Vargas isn't getting any national love despite his 5-3, 3.34 ERA season. He's still our guy. … Brendan Ryan has turned it on at the plate the past couple days. … The M's have another high draft pick, third this time around, and, according to Larry Stone, see themselves this year picking from a deep pool of prospects. Stone also has his power rankings, a look at how Kevin Millwood's recent strong starts could help the M's down the road and a roundup from around major league baseball.
• Seahawks: Most NFL quarterbacks retire to a life of golf and relaxation. Not former Seahawk Jon Kitna.
• As the weekend winds down, at least it looks as if we'll get one more nice day before the rain hits Monday. Don't overdo the yard work. I did last week and am still paying the price. Until later …