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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Undefeated Newport goes for title

Newport baseball players are no strangers to perfection.

The Grizzlies (24-0) are one of two unbeaten teams remaining in the state as they compete for a championships beginning today in Yakima.

“These kids one year went 24-0 in Pony baseball when they were 14-year-olds,” said coach Rusty Hargrove of a team with only one senior, Miles Melendez, on the squad.

“As 15-year-olds we had no American Legion team at that time, so we went to Sandpoint and played in the Idaho Panhandle League and were 23-0.”

If it seems a pattern has evolved, it has – from Hargrove’s coaching the youth team that traveled summers to Spokane for Pony baseball, to his becoming Newport’s head coach, to this weekend’s rare trip, to high school baseball’s final four and a fling with perfection.

“I never dreamed of this,” said Hargrove, taking Newport to state baseball for the first time in 30 years. “I thought we’d be good enough to get where we are, but I figured we’d have five or six losses coming into the end of the season. There are some pretty tough teams.”

It’s been a banner spring for Newport, competing in Class 1A after years in the 2A Great Northern League. And baseball takes its turn on center stage this weekend.

Joining it in the three-classification state finals weekend in Yakima are both Pullman and Chewelah of the GNL, who make up half of the 2A finals.

District 7 teams Lind-Ritzville and Northport are half of the State B semifinalists.

Newport’s success has centered around pitcher Nick Collison, who is 14-0, and the potent top half of its batting order.

Shortstop Melendez hit .508, Collison .425 and the pair have five home runs apiece. Catcher Chance Hargrove, the coach’s son, is hitting the gaps at a .615 clip and Josh Tiede, who also pitches, batted .480.

Of late, Rusty Hargrove has defied convention and worked Collison three innings one game, finishing with Tiede or A.J. Miltner, to save him for a full game the next.

It is a strategy he hopes works when the Grizzlies open state against Kalama, with the state’s other unbeaten, Brewster, perhaps in the wings.

Pullman, the GNL champion, is relishing its return to the state title weekend.

“The guys are obviously playing with a lot of confidence right now,” said coach Lance Lincoln. “At some point towards the end of the year I saw in their eyes that they believed they could take this thing far.”

Pitching ace Justin Cooper is 6-2 and Kale Stephenson is 7-0. Shortstop Kyle Hinrichs, who’s headed to Washington State, has been a constant, but, said Lincoln, players throughout the lineup contribute, including Ryan Druffel and, of late, sophomore J.T. Levenseller.

One of Newport’s victims this year was Chewelah, by an 11-5 score, and the Cougars are in their first semifinal behind the pitching and hitting of 6-foot-5 buddies A.J. Proszek (10-3) and Michael McCanna (8-2), plus added offensive output from others, including Allen Stone, Cameron Stroyan, Keil Smith and Kurt Kubik.

“They do a lot of things well,” said Lincoln of Chewelah. “They pitch it particularly well and still look fresh to me.”

Lind-Ritzville, which opens against perennial State B champion DeSales, who the Broncos beat for the state football title, has been led by the pitching duo of Travis DeWald (10-0) and Cameron Stevenson (7-1), with offense from Nick Ashley, Nate Bucher and Jake Kragt.

Northport’s Sam Burke (11-1) and Devin Day (5-1) have provided pitching and hitting, and Tucker Guglielmino has added power to the batting order. The Mustangs open against another familiar state participant, Wahkiakum.

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