May 2, 2014 in Sports

Baseball notes: Pitching will likely decide postseason fate

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Heading into the last week of games, two coaches have turned their eyes to the postseason as a couple of Greater Spokane League foes continue to battle for the final playoff positions.

Gonzaga Prep coach Brian Munhall stated his pitchers as a team have an earned-run average in the high ones and his hitters appear to be peaking at the right time.

“I don’t know if we expected to be this good,” Munhall said. “Hopefully we are able to keep playing well and keep the confidence up.”

The Bullpups (16-2, 15-1 GSL) have two games remaining next week against Ferris (11-7, 10-6). But it appears the race for second place will come down to the season-ending series between Mt. Spokane (14-4, 13-3) and Lewis and Clark (13-5, 12-4).

“Lewis and Clark has a tough finish,” Munhall said. “Mt. Spokane is playing about as hot as anybody right now.”

Mt. Spokane coach Alex Schuerman agreed, but said he’s got a tough draw to finish the season against the Tigers.

“That’s a big series,” Schuerman said. “They are playing well right now. That will be a battle.”

The Tigers have the one-two punch of Karver Pate, who earlier threw a no-hitter, and Ethan LaValley. As of Monday, Pate was leading the league with 67 strikeouts and LaValley was tied for second with Mt. Spokane’s Drew Rasmussen with 62.

“They have two really good pitchers,” Schuerman said. “That keeps them in every game. They’ve rode those two pitchers to where they are right now. In the last couple of years, that program has been on the upswing.”

Schuerman expects his hitters will have try to find their pitches to hit against LaValley, who was 5-2 with a 1.10 ERA and Pate, who was 3-2 with a 1.86 ERA.

“We saw both of them last year, so we know them and we are familiar with them,” Schuerman said. “It won’t be a secret. We will put our strengths against their strengths and see what happens.”

G-Prep bullpen excels

The Bullpups have had some huge pitching performances from unexpected sources according to Munhall, who singled out Connor Cherry and especially Steven Machtolf.

Machtolf was leading the GSL in ERA as of Monday at 0.33.

An early injury derailed reigning MVP Justin Blatner, who is now back in the batting lineup. In his last pitching outing, Blatner struck out nine and gave up one earned run.

“If he’s right, we are pretty darn good,” Munhall said of Blatner. “If not, we have to figure out which direction we will go.”

Unlike Cherry (41), Machtolf isn’t listed among the league’s strikeout leaders.

“He works quickly, competes and lets us play defense,” Munhall said. “Going in, I thought he would be our two or three starter. But you can count on him to not beat himself.”

On offense, Jordan Rathbone has been on fire, Munhall noted, with three home runs in his last three games.

“Rathbone is feeling it. He’s going really good,” he said. “Early on, he was close, but things weren’t going his way. He’s clicking now. We are finally starting to play our game and get comfortable.”

As of Monday, Rathbone was hitting .438 with seven doubles, two triples, and 13 RBIs.

Even with those numbers, Rathbone continues to trail Shadle Park’s Evan Douglas, who continues to dominate the offensive stats.

Douglas was leading the league with a .559 batting average, and eight doubles. Rathbone’s latest blast allowed him to tie Douglas with four home runs.

Schuerman also praised the consistency of Blake Macdonald, who was hitting .429, with five doubles and 17 RBIs, which was tied for the league lead with Gonzaga Prep’s Anthony Gosline.

“This is the fun time of year,” Schuerman said. “The postseason is upon us. The weather is nice, arms are feeling good and the games mean a lot. It’s fun.”


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