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Monday, September 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports

A Grip on Sports: As Cougars search for a starting quarterback, a Mariner legend searches for the fountain of youth

WSU left tackle Liam Ryan (63) celebrates with receiver Calvin Jackson Jr. after they scored a touchdown during a practice on Friday, August 2, 2019, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
WSU left tackle Liam Ryan (63) celebrates with receiver Calvin Jackson Jr. after they scored a touchdown during a practice on Friday, August 2, 2019, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Where were we? Oh, yes. Anticipating the opening of preseason football practice. It started while we were playing hooky.

•••••••

• “Hooky” is as good a name as anything for what we did yesterday. It certainly wasn’t golf as Old Tom Morris would know it. But it was for a good cause, the company was exceptional and the weather perfect. Batteries recharged (they must be solar) we are ready to delve into the Washington State quarterback battle.

The winner is …

Well, no one yet. You thought Mike Leach would walk on the Martin Stadium field with a sword, have Trey Tinsley take a knee and dub him Sir Starter? Actually, that sounds like something Leach just might do, if you substitute some ancient Middle Eastern manhood ritual, but it didn’t happen.

Instead the first day of 2019 practice was a lot like the first day of 2018 practice, sans a mustache. At least that’s how our Theo Lawson saw it and he observed both.

Theo’s coverage in today’s paper is really good. But it’s the online coverage that really stands out – and what we are mainly concerned with. We link everything Theo and Tyler Tjomsland, who turned his lenses on the Cougars, posted from Pullman yesterday.

• The Seattle Mariners are pretty lucky in one regard. The franchise has two minor league affiliates within a few miles of its home stadium, one its Triple-A team, the other a Single-A, short-season club.

That allows the M’s to send major league players out for rehab assignments pretty much any day and all they have to do is drive a few minutes (or hours, depending on the I-5 traffic).

Felix Hernandez took advantage of that last night, throwing two perfect innings in his rehab assignment with Everett. The opponent? The Spokane Indians, who have been slumping lately.

Two clean innings against a Single-A team is fine, but Hernandez, who has been out since May, needed to show command. He did. The negative? His fastball was consistently clocked at 88 miles per hour. Gone are the days when he was throwing consistently in the mid 90s, giving his changeup enough separation to be one of the more effective pitches in baseball. Where Hernandez goes from here – not literally, figuratively – will be interesting to watch.

•••

WSU: Of course the quarterback competition is the top story Theo had to cover and he does. But he also discovered a new player at the opening practice, one the Cougars coveted but thought they lost. Finally, Theo is putting together a quick summary of the open practices. Washington State moves down to Lewiston today for the annual fun-in-the-sun week. … Tyler has a photo report from yesterday’s drills. … Theo also posted a number of videos of post-practice interviews including Leach, linebacker Justus Rogers, lineman Liam Ryan, defensive back Skyler Thomas and Tinsley. … This is a bit off the beaten path, but a couple Washington State researchers may have discovered why baseball are flying out of major league parks this year. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the North Division is so much deeper than the South, it’s almost laughable. …  The Cougars are joined by the Huskies in one way: both are looking for a starting quarterback. Washington also may start a transfer. … Oregon began practice at 9 a.m. yesterday. Maybe the Ducks should be the only option for any early morning kickoffs. … Oregon State faces pitfalls and opportunities this season. … Colorado is looking for leadership. … Utah mined the transfer portal for roster depth. … There are other things going on at USC, but the quarterback competition is probably of the most interest. … UCLA was without a key player as camp opened. … Arizona State also is looking for a starting quarterback. … Arizona has its starter at that position.

Gonzaga: When Jill Townsend went down with a broken leg in the WCC semifinal game with Saint Mary’s, anyone watching probably wondered if she would be back for next season’s WCC tourney. Four months later, she’s working out in hopes of helping the Zag women on their European trip starting next week. Jim Allen has more in this story.

Idaho: The Vandals begin practice today, with Paul Petrino’s team preparing for its second season in the Big Sky this go-round. Peter Harriman spoke with Petrino concerning the upcoming camp and season as well as putting together a list of five questions that need to be answered. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Portland State basketball player Deante Strickland, who was expected to play football for the Vikings this fall, was shot and killed Friday afternoon. His sister has been arrested for the crime.

Indians: Behind Hernandez’s strong start and solid relief pitching, Everett handed Spokane a 5-2 defeat. … This was posted a couple days ago, but we wanted to make sure we passed along Larry Weir’s conversation with Dave Nichols on the latest Press Box pod. … Elsewhere in the Northwest League, Eugene picked up a home win over Boise.

Youth sports: Chuck Stewart’s youth sports notebook includes news from baseball, track and field, softball and basketball, the last one dear to my heart.

Mariners: The Astros are good. The M’s are not. No wonder Seattle was overpowered 10-2 last night. … The M’s had a couple more pitchers make their major league debut on Friday. They are nearing a record. … Gene Warnick’s has his Out of Right Field recap from this “season of opportunity.”

Seahawks: Believe it or not, the Hawks already have practiced seven times. Russell Wilson missed the latest one to attend his grandfather’s funeral, and the offense struggled in his absence.

Sounders: Ramon Torres was suspended for 10 matches by the MLS. He violated the league’s substance-abuse policy. … Seattle banned a flag, then apologized for doing so.

•••       

• Golf is supposed to be fun. It certainly was yesterday at the charity tournament supporting Hospice of Spokane. You can buy all these interesting ways to “help” your game. Believe me, I needed them all. Until later …

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