Spokane has a huge weekend of baseball coming up as the Lilac City hosts the junior American Legion baseball state championships.
Four teams from the Spokane area, and the team from Asotin, will play in the 16-team, double-elimination tournament that starts Saturday at both Shadle Park’s Al K. Jackson Field and Whitworth University.
The four Spokane-area teams are Gonzaga Prep, Mt. Spokane, Ferris and Mead. They advanced out of the 23-area junior American Legion teams that have players ages 14-18 but mostly include high school juniors and seniors.
“We’ve had three out-of-town tournaments,” Mead coach David Wiggins said. “The travel can get to you, especially in the heat of the central part of the state. They boys sleeping in their own beds definitely gives us an advantage.”
The teams begin play on Saturday and the championship game will be played next Thursday at Jackson Field.
“It’s going to be a great tournament because it will be played on two of the premier fields in Spokane that both have FieldTurf infields,” said Andy Franklin, president of Spokane American Legion.
Climb the mountain
Mt. Spokane, under the guidance of Alex Schuerman, won the regular-season league title over Gonzaga Prep. Mt. Spokane (11-1 in league, 33-13 overall) then won the district tournament to advance as this region’s No. 1 seed.
Mt. Spokane opens at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Whitworth against FM Sports.
“It’s been a nice summer,” Schuerman said. “We’ve had a good run. The 13 games we lost were all to quality opponents.”
The team is mostly made up of players who either saw little action or were on Mt. Spokane’s junior varsity team last year, he said.
“They will all be vying for roster spots on my high school team next year,” Schuerman said. “It’s been a reason for our strength of high school team because of the continuity through the summer ball.”
Prepping for a run
Gonzaga Prep split the series with Mt. Spokane in the regular season and will enter the state championship as the area’s No. 2 seed.
“The league was decent. We are just young,” coach Brian Munhall said.
Gonzaga Prep (9-2, 28-13) first plays Mount Vernon at 7 p.m. Saturday at Jackson Field.
The team got a boost with the addition of Connor Cherry, who played with both the junior team and the senior Bandits team that also advanced to the eight-team state championship Saturday in Centralia.
“Cherry decided to stay with us,” Munhall said.
The team also boasts the arm of Cael McKeirnan, who was the high school team’s top reliever.
“When you get to this level, there aren’t too many teams that aren’t very good,” Munhall said. “This team is mostly my up-and-comers. We’re young, but we’ll see.”
The Mead team started out slow with a lot of young players, Wiggins said.
“We are starting to play our best baseball right here at the end when it counts the most,” he said.
Mead (6-6, 16-27) plays Anacortes at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Whitworth.
“The boys know what’s expected at the state tournament because we have been playing that type of competition all year long,” Wiggins said.
The team is led by pitcher/catcher Casey Luttrull. “He’s our field general,” Wiggins said.
The team has also got a boost from pitchers Sam Payne and Lindis Kopepassah, who will be a sophomore next year.
The Ferris team struggled at the beginning of the season but finished with a huge, come-from-behind win over Lewis and Clark to advance to the state playoffs.
Ferris (6-6, 13-23) was trailing LC 10-5 in the sixth inning only to rally for a 14-11 win to earn a chance to play this weekend, coach Scott Ward said.
Ferris opens against Centralia at 1 p.m. Saturday at Jackson Field.
“We have a couple kids who won’t even be in high school next year. That’s how young we are,” Ward said. “To look at where we were Day One and where we are now, it’s a pretty cool thing.”
The team started the year with pitchers who struggled to throw strikes and fielders who lacked consistency. “But we’ve done much better,” Ward said.
While the team has relied on T.J. Liss, Michael Thew and Logan Johnston, it also has received contributions from a pair of players who were in middle school a few weeks ago.
The two young starters are Brock Bozett, who plays second base and catcher, and Eric Mast, who plays outfield. Both players will be freshmen next year.
“Anything can happen if you throw strikes and catch the ball,” Ward said. “We’re excited that we get to play more baseball.”