Pitching is the key to winning baseball and most Greater Spokane League coaches think they hold the keys to success.
“Everybody’s got kids who can throw strikes,” said University High coach Don Ressa. “This might be the best pitching in league in the last five years.”
Central Valley coach Ed Garcia concurs.
“Last year there were three pretty good pitchers,” he said. “It will be better throughout the whole league.”
CV returns one of those three, Erik Eigenhuis, who pitched the Bears into the regional finals last year.
And, said Garcia, this could be one of the Bears’ better overall groups.
Ressa’s Titans will come at you with numbers, including four hurlers who got them to the State A Legion tournament last summer.
Coupled with experienced returnees at virtually every position, both CV and U-Hi will likely be in the thick of what promises to be another balanced baseball league.
Eigenhuis big in CV’s plans
Eigenhuis, a rangy thrower who last year fired CV past Mead and then shut out Kennewick in regionals, will lead the Bears.
“Is he going to go out and strike out 16 batters? No,” said Garcia. “But he throws strikes, has three pitches and if he’s in the 80s (miles per hour), he’s dominant.”
The Bears, however, will only be as good as their pitching depth, added Garcia, and how strong they are up the middle.
He has been looking at eight potential pitchers, including seniors Raif Jochim, Nate Bartlett, Ryan Gardner and junior Colin White.
“Nate is extremely competitive,” said Garcia. “Ryan is a real key for us, if he throws strikes. He brings heat.”
Graduation took two major players out of the infield.
Jochim, who played third base last year, is a potential shortstop replacement. Other shortstop candidates are senior Tim Paventy and sophomore Chris Funk, who can also pitch.
Last year’s right fielder, junior Ben Miller, is at second along with senior Adam Boots and junior Brett Johnson.
White and another possible pitcher, junior Nick Ostrom also play third base.
Eigenhuis, Gardner and pitching possible Brian Chance, a junior, are at first base. Sophomore Justin Folkins will catch.
Speedy outfielders are Mike Tasca, another who could pitch, Chad Adamson, Ryan Nelson, Jared Wilson, Nate McFarlane, and Joe Paventy. All are juniors.
“I think our pitching is solid and we’ve got some power. We have much better team speed than last year,” said Garcia. “If we solidify our middle infield, we can be a better team.”
Titans need two ingredients
University’s baseball success, said Ressa, is predicated on delivering a one-two punch.
“For us, it boils down to two things,” he said. “If we pitch and put the ball in play consistently, we’ll be competitive.”
U-Hi has six pitchers on staff, four with varsity experience.
Included are veteran senior Bill Conant, juniors Sean Ruscio, Chris McMurtrey, Brad Valkenaar and sophomores Rob McGlothin and Cody Owen.
They’ll be backed by the Titan strong suit, defense.
Aaron Fryer moves from first base to shortstop. Robert Bartlett and Andy Dunham return to second and third base respectively.
Brett Haiar is back behind the plate.
New at first base are juniors Brandon Florence and Andy Price.
Backups include juniors Rusty Davis at catcher, Troy Svelmoe at second and Kyle Sale at short.
In the outfield are seniors David Powell, Jeff Price, juniors Chris Short, Nick Binkowski and Marcus Merrifield.
Gonzaga Prep aims high
Aiming high has long been a mantra among coaches. That’s no different for Darryl Stephens, who takes over the reins at Gonzaga Prep this year.
Stephens replaces Pat Shine, who coached the Bullpups to a fourth-place finish last year before taking a college coaching job in San Francisco.
For Stephens, coming to G-Prep is like coming home. He graduated from there in 1979, and went on to a successful career at Stanford. There, he walked on to the team and remains among Cardinal all-time leaders in fielding and batting.
Valley players on the Bullpups include senior All-GSL second team infielder Paul Greif, outfielders Pat Connellan and Cory Frazier.