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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Central Valley baseball flourishes under first-year coach

Last year’s Central Valley Bears baseball team warms up in the rain on March  2107. This year’s Bears will play Chiawana in the District 8 tournament Thursday, May 3, 2018, in Pasco. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

The first year on a new job can be mixed bag.

There’s the “Getting-to-Know-You Period,” the “Breaking-in-the-New-Guy Period” and the hopefully brief “Which-Way-to-the-Restroom Period.”

And, sometimes, there’s a little more.

Jeramie Maupin’s first year as the baseball coach at Central Valley has proved to be just that, leading the Bears into the Class 4A District 8 baseball tournament Thursday in Pasco against Chiawana.

“It’s been a really good first year,” Maupin said. “The kids have been great – we have a great group of kids, and they’ve made it easy on me. I’m extremely lucky.”

The Bears won 12 of their final 14 games in the Greater Spokane League, including an 11-1 win over GSL champ Mt. Spokane, to finish 14-6 overall and 12-6 in league to secure a berth in the double-elimination portion of the district tournament.

Along the way CV posted a .315 team batting average while the pitching staff posted an earned run average of 1.46. CV averaged almost eight runs per game while allowing opponents under three runs per game.

“I thought before the season that our offense was going to be pretty good and our defense was going to be good,” Maupin said. “What I wasn’t sure about was our pitching staff.”

Last year Central Valley had two standout pitchers: Jeremy Yelland and Conner Degeest. Yelland now pitches for the University of Hawaii, and Degeest hurls for Yakima Valley College.

“Beyond them, we had just one pitcher with any real varsity experience,” Maupin said. “We had a couple guys with a little varsity experience and a younger kid who played JV but had some potential. I wasn’t sure they could do it, but they proved to me that they could. Pitching has really been the hallmark of this team.”

Kyle Clay posted a 5-1 record during the season with an ERA of 1.62. Thomas Edwards was 6-2 with an ERA of 0.62 while striking out 44 batters. Jack Leary posted a 3-2 record and a 1.75 ERA.

The glue that helped mold the pitching staff, the coach said, is catcher Brayden Hamilton, a first-team All-GSL selection as a junior.

“He’s a four-year starter behind the plate and he has been like having a pitching coach on the field with these guys. He knows the league really well, and he knows these pitchers.”

In fact, the coach said, his catcher calls 99.9 percent of the pitches thrown in a game.

“He’s done a great job calling games for us,” Maupin said. “We have a new pitching coach, and there’s just the two of us in the dugout during games. Having Brayden call pitches lets us focus on other parts of the game. It’s one less thing for us to have to be concerned about.”

The key to this team’s success, the coach said, has been its leadership.

“This is an older team,” he said. “We have eight seniors and a couple juniors, so we have some really good leadership from kids who have played in this league.”

Senior infielder Jase Edwards was a first-team All-GSL pick a year ago, same with Thomas Edwards, who is not related.

This year Jase Edwards hit .333, drove in 12 runs and scored 17 while stealing 10 bases. Thomas Edwards drove in 15 runs and scored another 21. Austin Tomlinson posted a .355 average with 22 RBI and four homers.

Today’s game is not the Bears first trip to the Tri-Cities this season. CV opened the season with wins at Kamiakin and Kennewick.

“Those were good wins for us,” Maupin said. “Then we started the league season having to play Gonzaga Prep and Mead, and we took some tough losses.”

CV opened the league season with a 1-0 loss to Gonzaga Prep. They dropped a 6-4 decision to Mead, a 10-7 decision to Prep and a 3-1 loss to the Panthers to start 0-4.

“We kind of righted things after that,” he said. “We 10-runned Rogers in two games and swept two games from U-Hi.”

The season turned in the Bears’ first game with North Central.

“They have a really good pitcher (Josh Tucker), who is one of the best pitchers in our league,” Maupin explained. “He was throwing really well against us. And we beat them 3-0.

“I think that’s when we figured out that we were a good team and that we could compete with anyone. The best thing I can say about us is that we have played at a consistent level all season long. There have been games where we could have let up a little, but we didn’t do that. We kept pushing ourselves to be the best we could be.”

The coach said he feels he has the program on track to maintain its tradition of success.

He has a summer program set up and is especially excited to have his younger varsity players play summer baseball together to gain valuable experience heading into next season.

“I am very lucky to get a program like this,” he said. “The kids have been great, the parents have been great and the administration is very supportive. And there is a willingness to be part of something and help us start something new.”