Gonzaga: The Bullpups return 10 who played regularly and five made first- or second-team All-GSL. All told, 13 seniors are back. Both junior pitching ace Justin Blatner and infielder Anthony Gosline were first team. Second team were pitcher/outfielder Wyatt Mills, catchers Kane Ulrich and Zach Bonneau who will be in the field when not behind the plate. “The kids know how to win and expect to win,” coach Brian Munhall said.
Mt. Spokane: Six starters return for the 3A top-16 state finishers. “They like being together and are baseball junkies,” coach Alex Schuerman said. “We are a little light on the mound.” Veteran pitchers, junior Drew Rasmussen and second-team All-GSL Garrett Hoffnagle will be called upon as well as playing in an infield that returns in its entirety, including second-team all-leaguer Tyler Huck. “On paper we’re solid and will be competitive as we always are,” Schuerman said.
Mead: The Panthers return five from last year’s team including All-GSL outfielder Jordan McGowen, catcher Dane Crater (currently out following knee surgery) and second-team outfielder, speedy Darian Barlow. The loss of Regel hurts. “We’re old in numbers, but young in experience, coach Jason Reich said. “If our (first-year) seniors have senior(-like) seasons, we can battle for the top couple of spots.”
Ferris: With only four seniors, the Saxons don’t have a lot of experience, except in two vital positions, pitcher and catcher. As coach Jim Sharkey said, “Having a three-year guy on the mound and behind the plate is a good place to start.” Pitcher Tim Yoshihara and All-GSL catcher Alex Jondal, though in their third years, are still just juniors. Outfielder Matt Hare can also throw. “I do like the way this team is swinging the bats,” said Sharkey. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we made a decent run.”
Shadle Park: The Highlanders are still building around youth. Sophomores, catcher Brett Rypien and infielder Jonathan Krupla already have a year of varsity behind them and three other sophomores made varsity this year. All-leaguers Blake Phebus, third leading hitter in the GSL last year, Evan Douglas and fourth-year vet Ben Shoemaker are the glue. “Overall, I think we’re heading into a positive up-cycle,” coach Ron Brooks said.
Central Valley: Last year the Bears lost five games by a run and another by two runs. Eight players return including hurlers Ryan Peterson, Brady Simmelink, and Trevor Tomlinson. “Our strength should be pitching,” said coach Barry Poffenroth who ticked off the names of three more. Offensively, the team needs to finish. “I think we’re improved.”
University: The Titans, said coach Scott Sutherland, return infielders Colin Deyarmin, Garrett Schmerer, second-team All-GSL outfielder Austin Stannard, “and that’s about it.” Among seven varsity returnees, Matt Adams and T.J. Thies, are coming back from injury. Sutherland is high on Montana transfer catcher Jared Smith. “Defensively we’re better than last year. It’s a matter of if we adjust to GSL pitching,” he said.
Lewis and Clark: New coach Steve Bennett is creating a new culture with expectations for Tiger players. “The kids have really bought in nicely to commitment (for baseball) and being better athletes.” Three seniors return, first baseman-pitcher Karver Pate, outfielder Cory Gieffers and infielder Nick Aaro. Thirteen players are juniors or younger.
North Central: The Indians, with half its lineup returning, also have a new coach in Barry Matthews including one of the best players in the league, 6-foot-3 All-GSL infielder Dan Whittaker.
Rogers: It didn’t help that last year’s pitching ace, Wyatt Denman, didn’t return. Zach Day, second-team all-league, led the team in hitting as a freshman. “We have some good young pitchers without much experience,” coach James Wasem said. “It will be an uphill climb for the Pirates.”
Last year Coeur d’Alene plundered the league and district. State was a different matter. Both the Vikings and Lewiston lost their first games won their second before Coeur d’Alene won the consolation game 7-6 over the Bengals.
Expect the two teams to be back in the hunt.
The Vikings are a young team, but many played last year led by outfielder/catcher Levi Pereria, the IEL MVP last year and Kolby DeHass who was newcomer of the year. Six juniors, two sophomores and a freshman are on the 16-player roster.
“We lost two significant arms,” coach Nick Rook said. “The kids are young again, but we fully anticipate to have success this year.” … Lewiston coach Dan Grunenfelder is excited about the Bengals possibilities. They return four first-team All-IEL players: pitcher/shortstop Tyler Charlo, second baseman John Fuller, outfielder Sawyer Meacham and catcher Jake Ralstin among eight returnees. “I think we’re a lot better than last year,” Grunenfelder said. “I’ve thrown six players (in four games) this year. Our pitching is really deep, the defense is outstanding and the offense is coming around.”
Picking a favorite is always dicey in the GNL. The league winner isn’t necessarily the team that carries the banner into the postseason. Last year just two games separated five league teams. East Valley and Clarkston finished atop the league but it was fifth-place Cheney that placed among the top eight in the 2A state playoffs … The Knights return six starters, but lack offensive depth. Zach Burland and J.T. Phelan, two of the area’s best players, and Taylor Watkins are returning All-GNL. “We should be able to compete,” coach John Phelan said, citing his team’s pitching depth. “Offense will determine our success.” … … The Bantams bring back five starters, although a starting pitcher and catcher from last year transferred. “One of our strengths will be our experience at the varsity level,” coach Bruce Bensching said. “We will be as good up the middle as we have ever been.” They thrashed Pullman 14-3 in their league opener. .. But don’t count out Pullman, Cheney – despite graduating virtually its entire lineup – West Valley or Colville. … WV has strong pitching led by all-league shortstop Hunter Wells, who pitched three one-hitters and a no-no during the summer. Also back is All-GNL outfielder Taylor VanVleck. “Offensively, we are working on getting better and hope to battle for one of the top spots,” coach Don O’Neal said. … The addition and success of Colville in other sports, adds intrigue. The Indians were a State 1A quarterfinalist last year and defeated East Valley 9-3 in Tuesday’s GNL opener.
|GSL Predicted finish||7. University|
|1. Gonzaga Prep||4. Ferris||8. LC|
|2. Mt. Spokane||5. Shadle Park||9. North Central|
|3. Mead||6. Central Valley||10. Rogers|
|IEL Predicted finish||3. Post Falls|
|1. Coeur d’Alene||2. Lewiston||4. Lake City|
|GNL Predicted finish||5. Colville|
|1. Clarkston||3. West Valley||6. Cheney|
|2. East Valley||4. Pullman||7. Deer Park|