Here are the first-team returners in the GSL, GNL and IEL.
GSL: Derek Peterson (Ferris), Jake Schrader (Mead), Dane Berg (Central Valley), Nate Blackham (Mt. Spokane), Sage Poland (Lewis and Clark) and Aaron Awbery (East Valley).
GNL: Cameron Lowe (Cheney), Blake Sjordal (Colville), Alex Wolf (Deer Park), Nick Rimmelspacher (Clarkston), Mitch Peterson (West Valley), Taylor Marshall (Clarkston), Ryan Wagner (Medical Lake).
IEL: Devon Austin (Coeur d’Alene), the league’s player of the year, Johnny Rake (Lewiston), Jake Helbling (Moscow) and Kyle Knigge (Lewiston). Lewiston senior Justin Podrabsky, who has signed a letter of intent to play football at the University of Idaho, was a first-team pick last year but turned out for track and field this spring.
GSL: Central Valley, with a deep roster and pitching staff, could be a runaway winner. Defending champ University is expected to challenge. Just how things shake out near the top could be decided when the teams meet April 8 at CV and April 9 at U-Hi.
Lewis and Clark, which finished fifth in league a year ago, used a strong finish to capture the district championship. The Tigers graduated their top two pitchers but return the rest of their lineup intact. They should be a factor as the season progresses.
Mt. Spokane is the heavy favorite to finish first among the 3A teams and could finish in the top three.
•The top three 4A teams at district advance to regionals. The top four of the five 3A teams advance to a subregional with two Columbia Basin Big Nine teams. The No. 1 seeds from the GSL and CBBN receive first-round byes while the other four teams play loser-out games. The final four teams will meet at a still-to-be determined neutral CBBN site to send two teams to state.
GNL: Defending champ Cheney is given a slight edge over West Valley and Clarkston. After that there could be a big drop-off. The top six teams will vie for three state berths.
IEL: Lewiston and Coeur d’Alene are expected to battle for the 5A league title while Moscow is given the nod in 4A. The top two 5A teams advance to state while just the 4A regional winner earns a state berth.
In the GSL, CV and Mt. Spokane are out fast.
“It’s been a good start,” Mt. Spokane coach Alex Schuerman said. “The weather’s been nice and that has had spirits up. Last year at this time it was ridiculous.”
Mt. Spokane doesn’t have a senior pitcher.
“We start two juniors and a sophomore,” Schuerman said. “It’s a weird anomaly not having a senior pitcher on the roster.”
•In the GNL, Mitch Peterson of West Valley is off to a blazing start. Through six games, he’s hitting .619 (13 for 21) with three homers, 15 RBIs and seven stolen bases. His on-base percentage is .680 and his slugging percentage is 1.286.
•Clarkston opened with wins over Coeur d’Alene (6-5), Moscow (15-12) and Post Falls (3-1) in a round-robin tournament last weekend.
The Bantams travel to Cheney for a league-opening doubleheader Saturday.
“That should tell us a lot about how things will go in league,” Clarkston coach Bruce Bensching said.
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