Great rivalries help to define baseball.
Yankees-Red Sox. Yankees-anyone. Dodgers-Giants. Cardinals-Cubs.
Today at East Valley, it will be Eagles-Knights in a doubleheader that will have a major bearing on the Great Northern League standings.
“It’s always fun when these two teams get together,” East Valley coach John Phelan said. “It’s a great rivalry. We’re playing well, they’re playing well. What more can you ask for?”
Phelan’s Knights come into today’s showdown with a 3-2 league record, coming off a 9-2 win at Clarkston Tuesday. EV ace Gage Burland threw a four-hitter at the Bantams while Alex Bowdish collected a pair of hits.
“That was a good win for us – in fact I’d say that was the cleanest game we’ve played so far,” Phelan said. “It’s a tough trip – you end up spending six hours on a bus down and back to play for an hour and a half.
“Hopefully this will help us if we can win some more games and get the chance to play a few playoff games on the road later on.”
Defending league champion West Valley (4-1) enters the game in first place. The Eagles thumped Deer Park on Tuesday, 15-2. WV jumped on the Stags’ starter for four runs in the first inning, added three more in the second and erupted for an eight-run third.
The fast start is something of a surprise for the Eagles, who lost their top pitcher, Austin Lee, last fall when he suffered a rotator cuff injury.
With their projected ace sidelined, West Valley has had to reconfigure its lineup, moving younger players up in to bigger roles than originally planned.
Dylan Steen started against Deer Park and allowed just two hits in four innings. Cole Flett, who starts at catcher, came on in relief. Blake Davis picked up a save in the Eagles’ win over Cheney.
East Valley, meanwhile, may have the three best starting pitchers in the league.
Gage Burland has settled into his role as the Knights’ Tuesday starter. J.T. Phelan, the coach’s son, pitches the first game of Saturday doubleheaders, and Alex Bowdish, when he’s not playing shortstop, is the third starter.
“I’m not sure if I’ll start Alex in the second game,” the coach said. “I have another senior who’s throwing the ball real well and I have a freshman who I need to get some innings. We’ll wait and see what we need and how the first game plays out.”
What helps, Phelan said, is the run of great spring weather.
“Last year we got so backed up because of weather that we had to play something like 11 games in 10 days,” he said. “That just isn’t fair to the kids. You end up throwing kids who aren’t ready, holding kids out in case you need them for a later game, and having to play games when you just don’t have anyone left to pitch.
“We’ve been lucky. We’ve been able to settle into a rotation where kids pitch once a week and that’s the way it should be.”
The Bears head into a Tuesday doubleheader with North Central at Avista Stadium with a 2-6 record, picking up their second win, 6-2, over Ferris.
Austin Bergdahl pitched a complete game four-hitter to earn the win, striking out 10.
CV’s other win came when the Bears scored two runs in the top of the ninth to beat Mead.
Coach Barry Poffenroth has 13 seniors on his roster.
The Titans also are 2-6 heading into a home-and-home series next week with Lewis and Clark.
U-Hi got its two wins with a sweep of North Central, but has been swept by Ferris, Shadle Park and Mt. Spokane.
The Titans are better than their record indicates.
Against Mt. Spokane’s Drew Rasmussen, University held the Wildcats to a single run through six innings and pushed across a run in the top of the seventh inning to tie the game at 1-1 before Cooper Smith smacked a walk-off, game-winning single in the bottom half of the inning to give Mt. Spokane a 2-1 win.