A quartet of Lakeside High School baseball players took the team’s slogan, “From Worst to First,” to heart. As freshmen they played varsity on what Coach Matt Sullivan said “might have been the worst team of any classification.”
Now seniors, they are reaping the spoils of victory, a Northeast A League championship and a berth in the regional tournament.
“It was a four-year plan,” said Sullivan. “You have to build from the ground up.”
Like any fledgling program, progress was made in increments while the quartet - shortstop Bart Orth, first baseman Tim Klein, pitcher Chevy Mathews and catcher David Jennings - stuck together.
This year, playing on a new home field that Sullivan said is the best in the league, they were part of a seniordominated team that compiled a 13-3 league record and played tough against non-league foes that included Greater Spokane League champion University, runner-up Shadle Park, North Central, and Frontier League champion East Valley.
There is a certain Shadle flavor to the Eagles, who sport green uniforms and are coached by a Highlander graduate.
Sullivan coached with Shadle’s Ron Brooks and headed the school’s American Legion team before getting the Lakeside job.
Last year, with 14 juniors on the team, the Eagles qualified for the NEA playoffs with a 7-9 record. This year, after a 5-3 start, the Eagles won their final eight league games after Orth came back from a wrestling injury.
“He gives us stability and great leadership,” said Sullivan.
Lakeside hit .346 as a team, led by outfielders Brian Cravens, Jeremy Gilrein and Sam Tenny.
All batted over .400, along with freshman catcher Sam Hess filling in for the injured Jennings, and comprise an outfield that Sullivan said is unparalleled by any team.
Pitchers Mathews (7-0) and sophomore George Petticrew (4-0) benefited from such backing.
“To be perfectly honest, I would have been disappointed if we had not won it,” Sullivan said.
GSL playoffs on tap
Meanwhile, Brooks’ Highlanders, who completed an 11-5 GSL campaign, play this weekend for a spot in the AAA Region IV tournament.
Tied for second with Ferris, the Highlanders needed a playoff win yesterday to avoid a three-game loser out portion of the competition. Second place team plays only once, on Saturday.
Also involved in Friday and Saturday’s district event at Seafirst Stadium are North Side schools Rogers and Gonzaga Prep.
NC’s Kelly leads golfers
Playing at a school not generally known for golf, North Central junior Kyle Kelly is the best in the GSL, and his Indian teammates are following suit.
He shot 69 Monday at Indian Canyon Golf Course to win the Inland Empire Golf Tournament and lead GSL golfers into today’s District 8 Tournament at MeadowWood near Liberty Lake.
Kelly was first in league with a 74.3 average per 18 holes. Teammates J.P. Brunner, scoring 79, and Mark Becker, and Steve Jones both 81, helped NC, 9-7 in league, to place second in the I.E.
League champion Mead had three golfers among the top 10 and beat runner-up NC 296 to 310.
Jason Vedadi finished second, two strokes behind Kelly. Brian Fong shared sixth at 74, and Keith Ross tied for ninth at 75. Mead also advanced Ben Holt, 76, and Dustin Dauphin, 81.
Others district competitors include Robert Selland and Chris Bontrager of Shadle and Chris Hibbs, Mike Tritt and Justin Ruegsegger of Rogers.
Softball district this week
League champion Mead, already assured a regional berth, awaits a semifinal foe in this week’s District 8 softball tournament.
The 15-1 Panthers could play North Central, which will attempt to earn its first regional berth against Central Valley today at Franklin Park.
Third-place Rogers also needs a win, over Gonzaga Prep, to reach the semifinals and qualify for regionals.