Something Coeur d’Alene baseball coach Nick Rook preaches to his players is to be part of something bigger than themselves.
Nothing could be bigger for the young team than a return to Idaho’s State 5A tournament, which runs Thursday through Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Boise.
“We only returned one everyday starter from last year’s team and a couple of part time guys,” Rook said. “We had a lot of unanswered questions.”
At times the 22-2 Vikings have had two juniors, four sophomores and a freshman on the field. Most in one shape or form got to experience last year’s third-place finish as a prelude to taking on bigger roles this season.
Catcher Levi Pereira and Bubba Duran have been big offensive cogs. Rook knew his team went five deep at pitcher, including Ransom Storm, Mikey Schmidt and Duran.
The younger players were “pleasant surprises.” Other big contributors included Nick Nyquist, Devin Klauss and designated hitter D.J. Sutton.
Since absorbing a pair of season-opening losses to Rocky Mountain, Coeur d’Alene has gone unbeaten and won the 12-game Inland Empire League by a whopping seven games.
One of the keys was that Rook took some of the younger kids to state last year.
“Even if they didn’t play I took them for the experience,” he said.
Rocky Mountain has lost just once this year. Timberline and Eagle are among the better teams. Mountain View (13-12), CdA’s first opponent at state, handed the Vikings their state loss a season ago.
“We’re excited to get a chance to play them,” Rook said.
“We just focus on the kids getting better each day, having a positive attitude and to not be critical of each other.”
And to become part of something bigger than themselves.
All for one, one for all
Mt. Spokane had no All-Greater Spokane League players. They didn’t have expected pitching ace, Kelly Fitzpatrick, who worked only four innings – all in the season opener – due to a nerve injury in his elbow. He contributed heavily with the bat until his season was shut down three games ago because of further risk of nerve damage.
So what did the Wildcats do? Qualify for the school’s second 3A state tournament. The first came in 2007.
“Man, it’s a great feeling, first of all,” coach Alex Schuerman said. “It’s been a long time coming. We’ve had good teams, but missed a few here and there.”
They qualified for the round of 16 with a 1-0 victory over Kamiakin on Drew Rasmussen’s three-hitter and face host Kennewick tomorrow at noon for tournament seeding.
“Drew was phenomenal for a sophomore,” Schuerman said. “He only struck out one, but the defense made every play behind him.”
That in a nutshell, said their coach, is why the Wildcats are in state. There weren’t one or two players to rely on, but the team as a whole.
“Kelly was our ace pitcher and arguably the best in league,” Schuerman said. “But this team was more than just Kelly. Sometimes the sum of the parts is greater.”
Change really the same
State playoff terminology has changed but in essence is the same. The baseball tournament used to use a regional format that advanced 16 teams to the state tournament.
The 16-team bracket still exists, but, as Gonzaga Prep activities and GSL baseball coordinator Paul Manfred explained it, Tuesday’s and today’s playoffs are subregionals. In next weekend’s 16-team tournament, the first two rounds are four four-team regionals to determine four teams that will play at state.
By way of example: Tuesday’s 4A subregional was a six-team qualifier that concludes Saturday with the four remaining teams vying for three regional berths. Gonzaga Prep is at Richland playing at 1 p.m. Saturday for first and second seeding. At Mead, Ferris and the Panthers meet for the third spot, at noon. Fourth comes from another district.
The East Regional four-team tournament (formerly considered state) is at Avista Stadium next weekend, with the winner advancing to the final four.
Just the way it used to be when the terminology was different.
Other playoff games Saturday
2A: Cheney hosts Selah for state seeding. East Valley hosts Ellensburg and Clarkston is at East Valley-Yakima, for two other state berths, all at 2 p.m.
1A: Colville plays Chewelah in Wenatchee and Lakeside plays Cashmere at Eastmont, both noon. Winners meet at Eastmont for the titles and seeding to regional. Losers play for third seed in Wenatchee, both at 4 p.m.