It’s been a long time coming for Mead and Gonzaga Prep baseball teams.
The Mead Panthers’ last state appearance was 15 years ago and the G-Prep Bullpups go back 25 years – to 1987 – when last these schools played this far into the season.
The two represent the Greater Spokane League in today’s 4A four-team regional tournament at Avista Stadium.
“It’s been an exciting ride,” Mead coach Jason Reich said of his team’s run to the GSL regular-season championship and roller-coaster experience of the playoffs.
It included a best-of-3 loss to G-Prep in the district playoffs after leading one game to none, a loss to Richland, and a dramatic seventh-inning comeback against Ferris for the third seed to the regional.
The Panthers’ (19-5) reward is a rematch at 1 p.m. against the Richland Bombers, who have placed the last five years, including two state titles.
The Bullpups (19-6) open at 10 a.m. against Auburn Riverside, eighth seeded from its district. The winners of those games meet at 4 for the region’s state berth to the semifinals.
“I knew that if we beat Ferris on Saturday we would face Richland again,” Reich said. “We focused on playing these guys and having a different outcome. We had some hiccups, but are still playing baseball. It’s where we want to be.”
Reich said the coaching staff had inclinations last summer that the Panthers could be good this spring. Their AA American Legion team qualified for state.
“I knew we had some skills and knew we were deep at pitcher,” he said. “But I also knew we had virtually two guys with varsity experience there. (Sophomore pitcher) Zac (Regel) was a pleasant surprise, obviously, and the other guys stepped it up. Our seniors have led us throughout, but the juniors have been huge contributors to the whole situation.”
Reich said a return to earlier defensive form and continued solid hitting are keys. Mead has knocked on the state door several times over the years, but this time got over the hump.
“It’s exciting to be one of 16 teams left,” Reich said. “I told them, ‘Why not us, why not any of us?’ This is one of the most fun days we’ll have.”