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Saturday, February 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Grip on Sports: With the local teams’ struggles, it’s getting tougher and tougher to focus on baseball

Coeur d’Alene’s Christopher Reynolds delivers in the first inning  Friday against Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, in United States pool play at the Little League World Series tournament in South Williamsport, Pa. (Gene J. Puskar / AP)
Coeur d’Alene’s Christopher Reynolds delivers in the first inning Friday against Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, in United States pool play at the Little League World Series tournament in South Williamsport, Pa. (Gene J. Puskar / AP)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Is there any aspect of baseball keeping your interest right now? What with the Mariners’ slow-motion collapse and the quick rise of football news, it’s a bit harder to stay focused on the national pastime, isn’t it? Read on.

••••••••••

• There was a chance for a booster shot yesterday, though. The littlest of baseball’s televised players were on TV, and ESPN’s broadcast of the Little League World Series included a local team for the first time.

Alas, even that ended poorly.

The Coeur d’Alene group lost 5-4, done in by their mistakes – hey, that happens with 12-year-olds – as well as those of the adults who supervise the games.

The latter part might have been the most important.

If you have every coached young kids – my first experience with the age group came at 16 when my favorite nun at St. Rita’s asked me to coach the sixth-grade flag football team (a parent slapped me at one point, but that’s a story for another day) – you understand it’s nothing like coaching adults.

Kids are kids in every way. They are at their best when things seem to be going their way and at their worst when they aren’t. Momentum is a real thing in youth sports. Which is why, in the fifth inning yesterday, it was obvious Cd’A was going to have trouble holding on to its early four-run lead.

Let’s set the stage. Leading by that margin, Coeur d’Alene faced a two-out, two-on situation. Cd’A had its best pitcher on the mound but Christopher Reynolds was nearing his pitch limit. One of the best hitters for Grosse Pointe Woods (Mich.) was at the plate.

Reynolds induced a popup in foul territory. As the Cd’A catcher went for the ball, he was knocked off his line by the hitter who knew he was out and headed for the dugout. Interference, yes, but nothing was called. No matter, the first baseman caught the foul popup and the inning was over. Except, as he transferred the ball out of his glove after taking a step, it came out.

Everyone in America knew it was a catch, including all three ESPN voices broadcasting the game. But one person didn’t think so: The volunteer umpire, who also ignored the obvious interference. He called the batter safe.

Now, all umpires in at the World Series do this as a labor of love, so it’s hard to criticize. But Little League recognized long ago video review would be needed for hard calls, for just this reason.

Was it a catch? Sure. Inning over. But for some reason it was not reviewable. A line drive an outfielder dives for? You can review the catch. Fair or foul, safe our out? Review it. An obvious play like this one? No review. 

Reynolds ended up striking out the hitter with a breaking ball in the dirt, but he reached first on the play. A run scored. Instead of a 4-0 lead heading into the sixth and final inning, and Reynolds able to face the leadoff hitter, Cd’A led by three, Reynolds was out and Michigan felt it had all the momentum.

All of that’s important. The Grosse Point Woods team started fast in the sixth. And when a wild throw home went out of play – there is a window behind home plate for the TV cameras and the ball went through it because it wasn’t closed; why would you think a 12-year-old mightoverthrow a play at the plate and shut the window? – the Michigan kids were flying.

It was over in minutes. 

Now the Coeur d’Alene kids must rebound tonight against a Georgia team that lost 2-0 in 11 innings in a loser-out game. 

• Later last night the Mariners were blown out by the visiting Dodgers, 11-1. The M’s fell another game back of the Athletics in the wild-card race, though that may not matter. Oakland rallied past Houston thanks to a replay review overturning a missed call – hey, that’s how replay is supposed to work – and pulled within a game of the Astros in the West.

The M’s? They are 3.5 games behind Oakland and 4.5 behind Houston. With 39 games left, time is running short. 

The pitchers who surprised early and helped them surprise the rest of the American League, pitchers like Marco Gonzales and Wade LeBlanc, are tiring. They are also, especially in LeBlanc’s case, reverting to the mean as they say in statistical analysis. Maybe, just maybe, that’s what’s happening with the M’s as a whole. 

•••

WSU: Practice was light yesterday, more of a walk-through to prepare for today’s scrimmage. Theo Lawson was there but his emphasis was on interviews, which led to this story about former walk-on nose tackle Taylor Comfort. … Theo also has an interview with Comfort as well as coach Mike Leach, defensive line coach Jeff Phelps and receiver Rodrick Fisher. … Our friend Paul Sorenson has an idea how the Cougars could honor Tyler Hilinski during their first home game. He talked about it with Larry Weir yesterday on the Press Box pod. … The Times has a story on assistant coach Steve Spurrier, Jr. … The soccer team opened its season with a 3-1 win over Seattle U. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Washington coach Chris Petersen has a stellar reputation among his peers. … Oregon expects a lot from an undersized linebacker. … California lost some receivers in the offseason, which gives others an opportunity. … Colorado hopes one player can help its depth up front. … Utah has received a lot of help from Down Under, so why not one more player? … UCLA may have to rely on its defense. … Competition is crucial at USC. … Arizona State has lost a key linebacker due to a rules violation. … Arizona expects big things from one of its defensive players. 

EWU: The position group of the day in Ryan Collingwood’s on-going previews? Wide receivers.

Idaho: With the Rob Spear decision made, Peter Harriman gets back to football. Today he looks at the Vandals’ young offensive line and its need to mesh.

Whitworth: The break in the smoky weather allowed the Pirates to practice in the Pine Bowl yesterday. Jim Allen was there and has this story.

Indians: Spokane is back in a tie for first place in the North after a 4-1 win at Vancouver last night. The second-half race may be decided on this six-game road trip. … Around the Northwest League, Boise routed Eugene 11-0, Hillsboro won and Everett lost again. 

Chiefs: Luke Toporowski has been selected to play in a September prospects’ game. 

Golf: Another local course will be closing at the end of the season. But as Jim Meehan’s column relates, Antler Springs’ closing is for a different reason. … Some local kids had a good week of competitive golf. 

Mariners: The 11-1 loss featured five Los Angeles home runs. So much for Safeco being a pitchers’ park. … Gonzales will get a few days rest before his next start. … Felix Hernandez is back in the rotation. … Dee Gordon played shortstop last night as Jean Segura took paternity leave.

Seahawks: The Hawks need pass-rush help. Everyone knows that. Which makes the decision to cut end Marcus Smith a huge surprise. “Personal reasons” was all Pete Carroll would say. … Walter Jones may be back on the sidelines. … The Hawks play Los Angeles tonight. The Chargers, not the Rams. It’s game two of the preseason.

Sounders: Seattle needs wins. And the Sounders haven’t gotten that many over the years against the Galaxy.

•••        

• Sorry for the rant about a Little League game. But it just seemed so obvious the adults in charge let down everyone on the field. If you are going to have video review, than obvious plays need to be reviewed. And will someone please shut the window? Until later … 

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