Cheney baseball coach Randy Elam abides by the wisdom of a favorite quote – “It’s amazing what can be achieved when nobody cares who gets the credit.”
In his fourth year back at the helm, Elam readily spreads around the credit when talking about the Blackhawks, who are first in the Great Northern League and 15-2 overall.
Friday, Cheney (11-1 in league) hosts Pullman (9-3) in a season-ending doubleheader as three teams, including Clarkston (8-2 with two doubleheaders this week), are in the title mix.
From the character, hard work and leadership of his senior class, to a staff that includes three with head coaching background; the move from the Greater Spokane League to the GNL and development in its summer program, Elam said Cheney’s success is not just the product of one thing.
“It’s hard for me to venture a guess,” he said, when asked the whys of Cheney’s success. “We’ve worked pretty hard in the summer and I’m a firm believer in that atmosphere. It’s more relaxing and you just work on things that sometimes you don’t have time for during the high school season.”
The leadership and commitment of his players “has just been awesome,” he said. “The first summer we barely had enough guys to have a AA Legion team. We’ve been inching forward the last couple of summers.”
Cheney’s program has grown to eight seniors, 13 juniors, nine sophomores and 23 freshmen. The Blackhawks have made steady progress since experiencing hard times in the GSL by putting together winning seasons the past three GNL years.
Six of eight seniors, said Elam, have played significantly each of those years – pitcher Rick Heuschkel, Drew Ableman, Dennis France, Logan Hennessey, Zach Letsch and Mike Calvert. Travis Stragier and Travis Woods have been program guys since they were freshmen.
Younger players flesh out the lineup, including pitcher Cameron Lowe, who has won six games.
His staff includes infield/ junior varsity coach Terry Regnier and pitching coach Bob Strampe.
Elam replaced Regnier and coached Cheney to the state tournament semifinals in 1997. He left later to focus on developing an alternative high school in the district.
“It would not allow me to coach, but quite honestly it drove me nuts not coaching,” Elam said.
So he returned to coach freshmen and eventually took over the varsity again. After going 10-4 in league and just missing a state berth last year, Cheney is back in the hunt.
“I’m kind of one of those traditionalists,” said Elam. “I told the kids they should be good, but it’s on paper.”
It depended upon the seniors, he added. So far they have delivered.
CV tabs Pecha
Doug Pecha covered lots of ground before returning to his alma mater and being named new Central Valley head wrestling coach last week.
Over the past 15 years he has been a junior high coach, head wrestling coach at both Central Kitsap and Tahoma, where he was West Sound coach of the year, had top-10 state teams, the highest finishing fourth, and nine individual finalists, three of the champions.
He returned to CV in 2004, teaches chemistry and has been an assistant coach three of the past five years.
“We feel very confident he will do a nice job for us,” said CV activities coordinator Butch Walter. “He brings all that experience with him. When he wrestled at North Idaho College he was an Academic All-American. He’s in-building where kids have access to him and he to them, and you know how important that is.”
Pecha wrestled on CV’s first league championship team in 1987 and was a state participant.
“This was always my dream job,” he said. “If there was one spot to finish my career it was at CV.”
Mead wins tennis
GSL players proved their worth in last weekend’s 64th Inland Empire Tournament.
Mead won the team title with 142 points to Richland’s 124. Ferris, with 114 and Gonzaga Prep with 104, were third and fourth. Numerous individuals finished among the top four.
The Panthers had champions in two mixed doubles divisions and No. 2 girls singles. Erica Norris picked up her third title and Bryan Lee his second while defending No. 1 mixed doubles over Gonzaga Prep’s Lizzie Reiner and Nicholas Westfield. Sarah Hair and David Whisenand won No. 2 mixed over Saxons Tory Fennessy and Chris Howe.
Katijean Stime captured the No. 2 girls singles title over Gonzaga Prep’s Sarah Bechtolt. Her sister, Britta, finished second in girls No. 1 singles, and Ethan Vaughn was second in boys No. 1 singles, both to defending champions. Britta and Katijean had won girls doubles a year ago.
Also winning an I.E. title were No. 1 doubles boys Bryce Fager and Tom Geranios from Ferris. Gonzaga Prep’s Alex Hattamer in No. 2 boys singles finished second as did Saxons Carrie Barber and Macy McLauchlin in No. 1 doubles.
Other top-four placers: Ryan Gerbing, Mead, and Stephen Harris, Mt. Spokane, third and fourth in No. 2 singles; Saxons Dan Steiner and Marshal McNally, third over East Valley’s Jon Casebier and Austin Campbell in No. 2 doubles; Bullpup Anna Lambert and Central Valley’s Leslie Ho, third and fourth in No. 1 girls singles; Hayley Hendricksen and Niklas Behnke from Lewis and Clark, third in No. 1 mixed doubles, as were Tigers Holly Williams and Greg Sullivan in No. 2.
Rivals in showdown
Winner has the inside track to a GSL title when University and Central Valley meet in softball. The Titans (15-1) play host to pre-season favorite CV (14-2) today at 4 p.m.
GSL teams begin district playoffs this week with University and Ferris meeting Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Albi Stadium in a loser-out match between the No. 4 and 5 seeds.
On Friday, Central Valley and Mead open an Albi doubleheader at 5 p.m. followed by Lewis and Clark vs. the U-Hi and Ferris winner. Those winners play next week for regional seeding.