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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Streaked with talent

It’s a word Lake City High baseball coach Cory Bridges uses interchangeably to describe the hitting of seniors Travis Harmon and Tom Barlow.

Streaky. As in Barlow has been streaky good most of the season and Harmon has been streaky bad at times.

“Travis is about as streaky as they come. He’s a roller coaster at the plate,” Bridges said. “Tom Barlow is his opposite. He’s one of the most consistent hitters I’ve coached. He’s Mr. Steady.”

Harmon, a catcher, and Barlow, a third baseman, were starters on LC’s team that finished runner-up in the State 5A tournament last year. They want to lead the Timberwolves back to state.

The left-handed hitting Barlow leads LC in most offensive categories, including a team-leading .430 batting average. Harmon, who got off to an 11-for-22 start, has settled in at .339.

Harmon believes his so-called roller coaster ride is about to start climbing again.

“I’m due to go on another streak,” Harmon said, emphasizing a good streak.

The defending Inland Empire League and Region I champ, LC’s route to state this year should be much more formidable than a year ago. The Timberwolves cruised through league last season, needing just a win over perennial power Lewiston to capture the regional title and automatic state berth.

Going into final regular-season games today, LC (16-6 overall, 10-5 league) will likely end up taking on cross-town rival Coeur d’Alene (15-6, 9-5) in a loser-out opener Monday. The winner will travel to Lewiston (14-7, 11-5) on Tuesday to decide the regional champ. The loser can still earn a state berth in a play-in game the following Saturday.

Both Harmon and Barlow understand the difference between last year’s storybook run and this season. Whereas this time a year ago the T-Wolves were peaking on their way to their best showing at state, the 2005 team could see its season end as soon as Monday.

“We’re not in a crisis situation right now, but we’ve had a few more bumps than we did last year,” Barlow explained. “We feel like we can get to state. We can still compete with anyone.”

Whatever the outcome, Bridges knows his team will challenge until the final out – especially with Barlow and Harmon in the lineup.

Both plan on playing in college. Barlow will likely accept an invitation to play at Community Colleges of Spokane, while Harmon will try to play baseball and football at Minot State University in North Dakota

Harmon was recruited primarily to play football at Minot. Although he spent more time at wide receiver than defensive back last fall, Minot plans to use him at strong safety. His position coach at Minot also coaches catchers in baseball.

“Football’s my first love,” said Harmon, who transferred to Lake City from St. Maries as a junior.

He loves defense more than offense – although his first serious varsity action came when he started at quarterback his sophomore year for a St. Maries team that went 0-9.

“I had a lot of nightmares that year,” Harmon said. “I was getting hit a lot.”

He spent most of his junior year at safety, but then spent of his senior year at wide receiver, filling a void from graduation. He ended up making 59 catches, No. 2 in school history.

“If I had to do it over again, I’d play him every down on defense and when we needed him on offense,” LC coach Van Troxel said. “He was our best defensive player and we didn’t play him enough over there because we needed him so much on offense. At Minot he’ll be playing at the spot he’s most suited for.”

Although Bridges would like to see more consistency out of Harmon’s bat, that’s not the primary reason he’s been a two-year starter.

“He could hit a buck and change and he’d still be in the lineup,” Bridges said. “He’s so valuable to us behind the plate. His presence behind the plate is very comforting to our pitchers.”

Barlow missed the first three weeks of the year last season recovering from reconstructive surgery on his non-throwing shoulder – a football injury that occurred back in middle school that worsened over time. He had surgery immediately after the football season, but couldn’t lift weights to get in shape for baseball.

Which explains why his batting average is up about 80 points this year and he’s 15 to 20 pounds lighter.

“I felt like I was carrying somebody on my back last year,” Barlow said. “I wasn’t 100 percent at all last year. I’m faster this year, but my teammates still tease me about being slow.”

Barlow bats in the No. 4 hole for a reason.

“I talk frequently about quality at-bats,” Bridges said. “I don’t know if Tommy ever doesn’t give you a quality at-bat. He may not always get a hit, but he’s always going to give you a quality at-bat.”

Harmon and the T-Wolves call Barlow “nails.”

“When it comes to hitting, he’s the man,” Harmon said. “He’s got the natural swing. He’s the best hitter on the team by far. If we get on base for him, he can get the job done.”

Bridges appreciates the leadership that Barlow and Harmon have provided this season.

“As good a ballplayers as they are, they’re better citizens,” Bridges said. “They’re the kind of kids you want your kids to become.”

In the more important game of life, that means more than any statistics any day.

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