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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Middle wide open

CCS hopes to land region playoff spot

Bobby Lee took another look at the baseball standings in the East Region of the NWAACC earlier this week and just shook his head

“It’s just amazing, isn’t it?” the Community Colleges of Spokane head coach said, noting the mess at the middle of those standings, in which a mere two games separate six teams still hoping to land the two remaining spots in the four-team region playoffs at Columbia Basin College on May 14-16.

CBC (38-6 overall, 20-4) earned a berth in the playoffs and the right to host the event by clinching the regular-season title, and Wenatchee Valley (19-17, 14-10), which is in second place, would seem to be a lock for the second berth, with only four games left to play.

But beyond that, nothing else has been settled.

The other six teams in the division – including Lee’s Sasquatch (18-16, 10-14), who face Walla Walla (24-17, 11-13) in a crucial doubleheader that starts at 1 this afternoon at Spokane Falls Community College – remain in contention for the last two playoff berths.

WWCC, Blue Mountain and Treasure Valley are tied for third with 11-13 records. CCS and Yakima Valley are both a game back at 10-14, and Big Bend is in eighth place but just two games out of third.

“That’s about as crazy as it can get,” said Lee, whose team has struggled in recent weeks.

The Sasquatch, after back-to-back sweeps of perennial power CBC and Treasure Valley in mid-April, split their next two doubleheaders against Wenatchee and Big Bend – losing the nightcaps in both.

They then dropped both games against Blue Mountain before splitting Saturday’s doubleheader against Yakima Valley.

“We’ve been competing well, but we just haven’t been able to close the deal in a couple of instances,” Lee said. “And those two losses to Blue Mountain really hurt, because we pitched well enough to win both of those games.

“But, like we told our players, we’re in the last week of the regular season and we still have a chance.

“Of course, we’d be in better position and have a better chance if we’d have taken care of some business earlier.”

A sweep of Walla Walla this afternoon would certainly improve the outlook, but Lee is trying not to put any extra pressure on his players.

“With Walla Walla being in front of us, and close enough to catch, these are important games,” Lee said. “But we don’t want to go into the process thinking we have to sweep. We want to go in saying, ‘Let’s just win one inning at a time,’ which is the mentality we’ve had all year.”

The Sasquatch will close regular-season play on the road Saturday, with another doubleheader showdown against Columbia Basin.

Provided those two games still mean something, Lee is hoping his team will be able to draw some confidence from having swept the Hawks at home last month.

Zags step out of WCC

With a crucial series against fellow West Coast Conference co-leader Loyola Marymount looming next weekend, Gonzaga University will take the rest of this week off before traveling to Corvallis, Ore., to kick off a two-game non-conference series against Oregon State on Tuesday.

The Bulldogs (30-14, 12-6) and LMU (29-21, 12-6) will close WCC play with a three-game series May 15-17 at Washington Trust Field that will determine the regular-season champion.

With both teams holding a two-game edge on third-place San Diego (27-21, 10-8), the winner of the series will also earn the host’s role in the best-of-3 WCC playoffs that will held May 22-24 between the top two regular-season finishers to determine the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA regionals.

Big chance for Cougars

After losing two of three games at home to Pacific-10 Conference rival Stanford last weekend, Washington State will get another chance to launch a late-season run Saturday when it opens another three-game series against Oregon at 7 p.m. at Bailey-Brayton Field.

The series loss to Stanford dropped WSU (22-20, 11-7 Pac-10) into a third-place tie with Oregon State in the conference standings. Oregon (14-31, 4-14) is in last place, having lost 16 of its past 17 games – including nine of its past 10.

Still, Cougars coach Donnie Marbut is hoping his team disregards all the problems Oregon has encountered after re-establishing its baseball program this spring following a 28-year hiatus.

“I know their win-loss record is not what they would like it to be, but they’ve played a lot of close games,” Marbut said of the Ducks. “Our focus has to be the same as it has been all year.

“You can’t worry about the name on the jersey, whether it’s Oregon, Stanford, Arkansas, Texas or South Dakota State.”

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