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Connor DeGeest, left, and Jeremy Yelland are pitchers on the Central Valley Bears baseball team, which should fare well in the Greater Spokane League this year. (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)

GSL baseball: It could be season of excellence

Alex Schuerman grew up around Spokane youth baseball.

The Mt. Spokane coach has followed Greater Spokane League play going back to the 1980s. So he’s a bit of a historian.

And history doesn’t lie. The GSL has had a bleak presence in baseball when the season reaches the postseason.

Schuerman, a 1993 Mead graduate who is starting his 14th season coaching the Wildcats, believes things are about to change – as soon as this spring.

“A little bit of it is because of the weather. Our kids don’t get outside as much as the kids in the Tri-Cities,” Schuerman said. “A while back there wasn’t consistent competitiveness in the youth programs. That’s improved greatly. In the last eight years we’ve closed the gap on the Tri-Cities schools.”

The GSL’s top players a year ago were juniors. That’s one of the reasons Schuerman sees this spring being possibly the best in league history.

“In my 14 years as head coach, this is the deepest the GSL has ever been,” Schuerman said. “We have such dominant pitching, such good players – which should provide us the battled-tested nature we need going into the playoffs.”

No GSL team has won a state championship. Richland, meanwhile, has captured three state titles from 2005-09 and was runner-up in 2010.

Seven GSL teams have played in the state final. The most recent was North Central in 2001 when the Indians were second in the 4A final.

Spokane is known for many things, including being a football, basketball and soccer town. But the label of being a baseball town doesn’t exist.

Schuerman is hopeful that’s going to change.

“There’s been solid coaching in the GSL and solid youth programs,” he said. “And more kids around Spokane are playing baseball.”

Schuerman’s Wildcats will be in the mix for the league title this season along with last year’s co-champs, Central Valley and Gonzaga Prep.

He believes other teams could challenge as well.

“Every team seems to have an ace and brings back some talent,” Schuerman said.

CV brings back the most starters with eight. Leading the way are first-team all-league picks Conner DeGeest (pitcher), Jeremy Yelland (pitcher), Brayden Hamilton (catcher) and Kyle Lawson (infield). DeGeest had the most wins among GSL pitchers with six.

What the Bears must replace, coach Michael Amend says, isn’t anything physical. It’s leadership.

“Last year’s team was special because of chemistry,” Amend said. “Two of our three seniors last year played significant roles in work ethic and excellence. Another showed perseverance and was one of the best teammates I’ve coached. Those things you can’t replace with talent. We’ll need guys to step up into those roles.”

Mt. Spokane brings back seven starters, including Gabe Martin (infield), a first-team selection. He finished as the GSL’s second leading hitter with a .511 average.

“I feel strongly about this group,” Schuerman said. “They know how to play the game at a high level.”

G-Prep returns seven starters including Seth Kuykendall (p), a first-team pick who had the second-most wins in the league with five. The Bullpups return their pitching staff and infield.

“Our pitching and defense are always the core of our success and those will be our strengths,” G-Prep coach Brian Munhall said.