CBC baseball battling youth, Lower Columbia
Mar 17, 2012 (Menafn - Tri-City Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Two titans of NWAACC baseball will be on the field today in Pasco when Lower Columbia pays a visit to Columbia Basin.
The Red Devils from Longview -- 10-time NWAACC champions and hosts of the annual championship tourney -- come in with a 2-1 record, and manager Kelly Smith probably will be happy just to see some clear skies when the teams take the field at 11 a.m. today. His team hasn't played in 10 days and already has had five games rained out.
The Hawks -- 13-time East Region champions with 14 consecutive appearances in the NWAACC tourney -- are off to a 3-5 start. But manager Steven Farrington, who won two of LC's titles in 1984 and '92, is not sounding any alarms just yet.
"We're just green and young enough," Farrington said. "We've been in a hurry, overswung, been too aggressive. We attack the ball at the plate, and sawed ourselves off. And we've made enough errors to last a while.
"We've been in a hurry."
The errors -- CBC has allowed 17 unearned runs in eight games -- are uncharacteristic of a Farrington team, as is the team's 7.59 ERA and 1.86 WHIP -- walks plus hits per inning.
"We gave 25 free passes to Prairie, hit six guys against Tacoma and walked another eight," Farrington said of CBC's two worst days this spring. "It's hard to compete when you're always paying catch-up because they score so easy in those situations."
Of course, that's the bad news so far with the Hawks, along with a .222 team batting average.
The good news: It's early, and a lot of guys have been playing and pitching as the coaches make their evaluations.
"It's spring training for a reason," Farrington said of the nonregional games.
Farrington is entering his fourth year at the helm of the Hawks, and his .745 winning percentage (114-39) is slightly ahead of predecessor and athletic director Scott Rogers' mark of .742 (1998-2008) for best in the program's 40-year history.
When he looks at his club, he sees a lot of potential. The skills are there, he said, now they just need the college experience.
"They're learning to play college ball," Farrington said. "They've found out that 1-0, 2-0 pitches are not down the center (of the plate) anymore."
CBC is green in the field. Shortstop Ausitn Say (Madras, Ore.) and second baseman Chris Brunetti (Othello) are the only regular players back from last season.
The Hawks routinely will start an all-freshman outfield -- Zach Rapacz (Richland) in left, Joey Jansen (Kamiakin) in center and Jeremy Holden (Hermiston) in right.
Erick Raynes (Kenmore) split time at first last season; freshman Seth Lochridge (Pasco) will play third and spell Brunetti at second; freshman Kolby Haliewicz (Pendleton) will play third and first.
Craig McAlpin (Montesano) saw some time behind the plate last season and will split time with freshman Jake Azevedo (Beaverton, Ore.).
McAlpin is one of the few CBC hitters off to a decent start, hitting .381 with two triples and four RBIs. Haliewicz his hitting .263, Holden .273.
On the mound, the Hawks return just one of their outstanding quartet of starters that were the keystone to CBC leading the NWAACC in ERA and WHIP last season.
That returner, Arty Reyes (Warden), is off to a good start this spring -- 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in 10 innings, striking out eight and walking 10. The walks are high -- he only gave up 24 free passes in 61 2/3 innings last year -- but he is under the 3.36 ERA he posted as a freshman.
Sophomores Jon Rapose (Spokane Valley), Chris Cecil (Richland) and Nico Lytle (Boise) will fill out the starting rotation, with fellow sophs Matt Minnich (Kamiakin), Trevor Dunlap (Kirkland) and Mike Sulser (Billings, Mont.) anchoring what figures to be a strong bullpen.
Aside from Reyes, Rapose (1-3, 1 save, 3.44 ERA, 34 IP, 13 BB, 37 K) and Cecil (1-0, 2 saves, 2.31 ERA, 23 1/3 IP, 8 BB, 26 K) have the most college innings on their arms.
"I think we got good left- and right-handedness," Farrington said. "The big concern is our ability to challenge the hitter with strikes. But we think we got four kids who are hard throwers (Reyes, Lytle, Dunlap, Sulser). If those four guys find a way to be in the zone, with their arms ..."
The East has been dominated by CBC, Yakima, Walla Walla and Treasure Valley in recent years, and don't expect that to change much.
"We had four teams with 30 wins last year, and I don't think they're going backwards," Farrington said.
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