West Valley High softball coach Paul Cooley likes everything about his team’s impressive start, but he knows the meat of the Great Northern League schedule remains.
The Eagles’ pitching, hitting and defense have been exemplary. They’ve outscored foes 65-3 in six wins.
“We’re a pretty good team,” Cooley said. “We’ve got two junior pitchers ( Kelli Peckham and Brooklyn Robinson) and so far in league they haven’t given up an earned run. They’ve been splitting time, but once we get to the tougher teams I’ll probably stick with Kelli more and the reason is Brooklyn is the shortstop and she’s a pretty good player.”
The tougher teams are coming this week. West Valley (6-0, 5-0 GNL) faces Deer Park (3-0) today and East Valley (3-1) for a doubleheader Saturday.
Wait, isn’t it spring break?
“First time I can remember playing softball over spring break,” Cooley said.
GNL membership dropped from eight to seven this year with the exit of Colville and Riverside to 1A and the addition of East Valley. The customary 14-game schedule (two games vs. seven GNL foes) was expanded to 18 (three games vs. six GNL foes). That required games to be scheduled over spring break, according to Cooley.
“The coaches I’ve spoken with aren’t very happy about it,” Cooley said. “We found out way too late. If we’d known in September we could have told the kids. We have five games (during spring break) and you could have 2, 3, 4 kids gone for basically one-third of when you’re league is determined.”
West Valley will be without two players. The Eagles’ JV has five players absent. Medical Lake was missing several players when it faced West Valley last Friday.
“I’m fortunate some of our kids were planning to be gone,” Cooley said, “but they changed their plans.”
The drop in GNL membership prompted another change. The league has had two state representatives, determined at the district tournament, but the drop to seven teams meant only one state berth. So the GNL and Central Washington Athletic Conference (CWAC) will stage a regional tournament with four state berths at stake, but that figure is misleading.
“The only thing I don’t like about it is the CWAC’s No. 1 and No. 2 teams are automatically going to state,” Cooley said. “Our top two teams have to play in the first round” against the CWAC’s third- and fourth-place teams.
That means the GNL could earn two state berths with a successful regional run or zero with two first-round losses.
West Valley has plenty of work to take care of before it can begin worrying about regionals, but the Eagles do have a solid combination of hitting and pitching. Cassie Finn has a .666 batting average and Robinson checks in at .555. In league play, Peckham is 3-0 with 34 strikeouts and Robinson is 2-0 with 26 strikeouts.
The Eagles have allowed one earned run this season – in a 3-1 victory over former GNL rival Colville.
Idaho 5A heats up
The Inland Empire League 5A race heats up this week. Preseason favorite Lake City (4-0, 1-0 IEL) entertains Coeur d’Alene (0-1) today and visits defending state champion Post Falls (0-2) on Thursday. Lewiston (2-0) entertains CdA for a doubleheader Friday.
Lake City sophomore pitcher Casey Stangel hasn’t allowed a run in her four wins.
Lonely at the top
Mead (5-0) is the lone unbeaten GSL team. The Panthers picked up three wins last week, including one-run decisions over University and North Central.
Central Valley, Mt. Spokane and U-Hi are 4-1 as teams take a respite for spring break.
Alisha Meade pitched into the fifth inning to get the win and Hannah Beloved picked up the save in Mead’s 5-4 victory over U-Hi. Kodee Kinder’s two-out single in the sixth drove in Laura Walmer to give Mead a 5-3 lead. The Titans scored once in the seventh before Beloved closed the door.
“Great game,” Panthers coach John Barrington said. “I talked to the people who were watching and everyone mentioned that it was a fun game to watch. Well played by both teams.”